Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin recently said on the NFL Network that when the Dallas Cowboys have receiver Roy Williams on the field, they're basically playing "10 versus 11". Irvin lobbied for first-round pick Dez Bryant(notes) to get reps in Williams' place, and Williams is allegedly using this to fire himself up.
"It just lit me up. ... That got me going," Williams told the Dallas Morning News on Friday. "I'm going to do my job and let it happen. I put in the work and the time. It's going to happen. ... I was on the top of the drops list (in 2009, with eight). I promise you that I won't even be close to that."
But according to that same article, Williams has caught just five of the 13 passes thrown to him in the preseason. We could excuse that as shaking the rust off if Williams hadn't posted a horrible 44 percent Catch Rate (catches out of targets per Football Outsiders) in 2009, which matched his horrible 44 percent catch rate in 2008. Moving from the Lions to the Cowboys in a very ill-advised trade by Jerry Jones didn't help. And now, with Bryant's imminent ascent and the six-year, $57 million contract extension given to Miles Austin(notes) this week, Dallas is paying about $30 million in guaranteed 2010 money to its top three receivers. A lot is on the line here, and patience for Williams at that level of productivity should be very, very thin.
In the 2010 preseason, Dallas averaged a league-low 2.7 yards per carry, and that's a major problem for a team that prides itself on power running and power blocking. The offensive line responsible for that power blocking is in big-time transition -- Doug Free(notes) will begin his first full season starting at left tackle, and Alex Barron(notes) will likely replace right tackle Marc Colombo(notes) when the Cowboys play the Washington Redskins on Sunday night. Barron isn't a downgrade in pass pro, but he has amassed 75 penalties in the last five years, more than anyone else.
It would be nice if Williams could step up against the Redskins' new 3-4 defense, and start to validate even a small percentage of the wisdom in his acquisition. But history tells us that if the Cowboys get off to a hot start this year, it will be Austin, tight end Jason Witten(notes), the running game, perhaps Bryant (who is expected to play on Sunday after missing the preseason with a high ankle sprain) ... anyone but Williams in the catbird seat. Williams has also been dealing with injuries - a hip flexor issue and a lower back strain -- which could lower the odds of success even more.
- Michael Irvin