The Dallas Cowboys are lucky to have a true game-changing Wide Receiver in Dez Bryant. The only way that Bryant can perform to his fullest potential, however, is by having a strong supporting cast. Very simply, if there are no other significant receiving threats, Dez will consistently land double and triple coverage. This is why the receiver who starts opposite #88 is oh so important.
Miles Austin seemed to be the perfect fit for the job. Generally, the biggest criteria for a WR2 is sound route running and catching abilities. We call them “possession receivers” – guys who will get us four-six yards with a curl route on 1st or 2nd down. Thus, when Austin started dropping passes like he did, it was clear Dallas would have to move on.
Now, it would seem that the battle for the WR2 spot is between second-year man Terrance Williams and rookie fifth-round pick Devin Street. Let’s be clear: it isn’t necessarily the case that the better wide receiver becomes the WR2 over the WR3 (slot) or even WR4. While the criteria for the WR2 may be simple, that for the slot is a bit more specific; essentially, the slot has to be very agile and is thus usually a smaller guy (think Cole Beasley).
So, between Williams and Street, who’s more fitting to start opposite Dez Bryant? Right off the bat, Street is the taller guy. At 6’4, he’s actually tied for the tallest WR in Dallas. While size isn’t essential for a WR2, it doesn’t hurt. Williams, however, outweighs Street: 209 – 190. This could be a big deal if it correlates to strength. At the combine in 2013, Williams put up a modest 11 reps on the bench press, but it was still more than Street who couldn’t perform the test due to injury. At this time, it’s hard to assess which guy is stronger, but with one year of NFL conditioning already under his belt and without the upper body injury history, it’s very likely that Williams takes this category.
Now, the most important parts: route running and catching abilities. While EA Sports may be able to put a numerical value on these attributes, doing so in real life is not so easy, especially not with a rookie. Truth be told, it will be impossible to judge which man has the upper-hand here before they get on the field in an NFL game. However, when comparing Williams’ first year in the NFL with Street’s time in college, it does appear that the latter is more built for the “possession” role.
Many of Terrance Williams’ most impactful plays last year were on streaks where he was able to outrun the Defensive Back. By contrast, he made several mistakes when running smaller routes, some of which resulted in interceptions. In fairness, though, he improved tremendously as the season wen on, and some of his biggest plays came on short yardage routes down the stretch.
Devin Street, who does also possess great speed, was actually the WR2 at Pittsburgh behind likely NFL prospect Tyler Boyd. In watching Street, one would find that he ran many routes which involved quick pivots and turns – and he did so quite well. “Out routes” and the like are well-within his repertoire, while the same may not necessarily be said about Williams.
Ultimately, it seems that Devin Street is more suited for the WR2 spot. He is a bit taller and has more experience playing that role. Williams may, however, still have the job given that he has a year in the NFL over his rookie teammate, and so is likely in better shape and knows the playbook better. After a few months, though, don’t be surprised if Street is lined up opposite Dez Bryant and Williams plays the slot or even comes in as a WR4 to stretch the field (similar to Deverey Henderson while in New Orleans). Either way, the Cowboys have two guys from whom they could expect a great deal of production no matter where they are on the field.
Who do you think is better for the job? Is there somebody else on the roster who should start? Sound off in the comments below!