Dallas Cowboys: A Terrance Williams Retrospective (what we learned)

Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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Athletic Ability

We talked at length about Williams’ athletic ability through his testing times, but the terms play speed and play strength exist for a reason. In reality, there wasn’t much difference for Williams on the field as there was in his underwear. At 6-feet-2, he had long strides which helped with his foot speed, but in the shorter areas of the field, his acceleration and speed rarely challenged defenders with his free releases.

His agility and change of direction are adequate at best and his explosiveness was below average. Williams’ long legs and lack of explosiveness all tie hand-in-hand. His agility would suffer when he didn’t sink his hips as a high-waisted individual; even otherwise he struggled to challenge the DBs hips in phase because he took too long to start and stop out of his breaks. The lack of explosiveness allowed cornerbacks to minimize the separation out of his breaks as they were generally more explosive.

A positive with Williams’s athletic ability was his foot quickness. When dealing with press coverage, he displayed good foot fakes that helped him stack the cornerback out of his release and then used his long strides to maintain separation working vertically. Combine this with his solid play strength and balance, you could make the case that Williams should have lined up primarily as an X receiver from the beginning.

Mental Processing

Probably one of his best traits, Williams understood how to get open even with his athletic limitations. His instincts against zone coverage were good. He knew where the soft spots would be and when working vertically, he routinely manipulated the cornerback’s blind spot so he could stack the receiver out of the break and then maintained his separation with his solid foot speed.

In an era of football that saw defenses see great success from playing Cover 3 frequently, Williams showed a consistent ability to beat defenders playing that coverage. His adequate agility meant he couldn’t beat cornerbacks with foot fire at his breaks or by simply outrunning them so manipulating blind spots to out leverage his defender downfield helped him accumulate over 16 yards per catch early on in his career.

Something we don’t often talk about, however, is that all this meant he had to work outside-in going deep and without good athleticism, that routes usually take longer to run. If it weren’t for the Cowboys having a great offensive line in his time in Dallas, he might have seen fewer targets in his direction.

But I digress. It helped that the play calling utilized a lot more vertical passing earlier in his career because that was by far the best way for him to be productive in the league. I think he knew that too…

Competitive Toughness

This might be the defining characteristic of Terrance Williams’s production at the NFL level. He fared a lot better in some games than others. Many important splash plays you may remember over his career likely stemmed from him physically imposing his will on other players.

Jason Garrett often praised Williams’s run blocking. While that seems incredibly specific and equally irrelevant to playing wide receiver, his space blocking was integral on many of the long runs RB DeMarco Murray had in his final two seasons as a Dallas Cowboy. The desire and effort to consistently get in position and block was a big positive takeaway from my evaluation.


I’ll explain later on why this became increasingly important, but a tough guy who played for a head coach who wanted to win by physically imposing their will on the other team and by doing things the right way. Williams was very much a “right kind of guy” and that definitely helped him add an extra year or two to his career.