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Finding 5% – Is Terrence Williams the Ignitor?

After watching several games worth of 2013 Detroit Lions tape, a not-so-funny question arises.

What if Scott Linehan doesn’t represent an improvement over Bill Callahan?

His Lions scored 2.7 fewer points per game than Callahan’s maligned Cowboys squad.  What’s more, Linehan’s game calling shows a strong similarity to Callahan’s.  Linehan called ball-control games, especially in the first half of contests.  That might surprise the casual observer who scans the Lions’ roster and sees Matthew Stafford throwing to Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Brandon Pettegrew, but Linehan liked taking a measured approach towards scoring.

Detroit opened up and threw deeper when it fell behind.  Take the comeback against the Cowboys for an example.  Much of the time, however, Linehan worked the short and intermediate zones on the field.  Crossers to Johnson, screens to Bush, arrow routes to Pettegrew.  Fades to Johnson in the red zone.  That was the preferred method down the field.

A repeat in Dallas could bring an early case of buyer’s remorse, especially if Linehan’s Cowboys sputter inside the ten the way Callahan’s guys did, and Jason Garrett’s guys the years before.

What, or who does Linehan have in his Cowboys arsenal who had no equal in Detroit?  Who offers the legitimate promise that Linehan’s offense can improve on the 27.4 points per game the ’13 Cowboys produced?  Who can be the ignitor to the deep passing attack, who gets Linehan to wing it more early in games?  Who can be the key to a truly big 2014 by the offense?

I’m looking at Terrence Williams.  He has a skill set that Calvin Johnson’s sidekicks lacked in Detroit.  Consider that while Johnson was bullying secondaries for 1492 yards, no other Lions receiver topped 600.  Detroit’s running backs, Joique Bell and Bush, ranked 2nd and 3rd in receiving yards.  Detroit’s number two, Kris Durham, produced 490 yards, and an okay 12.9 yards per reception.  The only other Lions target besides Johnson to average more than 15.0 yards per catch was Cowboys castoff Kevin Ogletree.

Williams gained 736 yards as a rookie.  He averaged a team-high 16.7 yards a reception, perfect for the Z target.  He didn’t just threaten secondaries with his deep speed, he harmed them.  Add that most rookie starters break out in year two and a 1000 yard campaign is realistic.

Such a year would make Linehan look smarter.  His offense frequently sent the ancillary targets on vertical routes and ran Johnson across the field underneath them.  Against Dallas, safeties would be foolish to discount Williams’ wheels to focus on Dez Bryant and the backs.

Terrence Williams offers the best chance for Scott Linehan to change up his ball-control tendencies.   A 30% increase in Williams’ production could increase Dallas’ scoring 5%.  And that could help the team find that elusive win or two it has missed the last three years.


Rafael Vela
Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for
Rafael Vela

  • McShrek

    To further muddy the waters, TWill is not a true speed merchant (despite perceptions), take out his 180 or so yards from the Bronco game and his YPC is just OK (he also had that 50 yarder late in week 15 against the Skins when his defender slipped and fell which saved our bacon)…if i am defending the Boys this weekend i double Dez with my second best corner, with a safety over the top on just about every play and put my shutdown/best guy on TWill……he had difficulty with press coverage just like Dez does……this offense MUST incorporate Harris and Dunbar into the mix early and often…they have the speed and quickness to stretch defenses and force opponents into more strict man coverage…………Witten is older, Hanna and Escobar need to be featured against certain defenses.

    We are so very thin at WR…… back spasm away from having to run to the scrap heap for a WR….

  • Michael

    I think the wildcard here is Romo’s back and how it may, or may not, limit what he can do and what kinds of routes he can throw. Sturm made an excellent argument back in January that Romo’s back had changed the way he plays the position in 2013. He noted that he wasn’t scrambling as much as in the past, he was occasionally going down before contact and that his YPA was way down when compared to his career average.

  • connery

    How good is/was Detroit’s O-line?
    I really don’t remember.
    If they aren’t very good than maybe that’s the reason he didn’t go downfield more often.
    I’m hoping to see a lot more play action this year.
    Make it true Linehan. Through great offensive line play!

  • AustonianAggie

    That’s a horrific thought Raf. I have to agree that Linehan shows he’s a stretch the field wide first, then deep. Terrence Williams is one reason to be optimistic that Linehan will be better able to go vertical, and so are all the outside WR types auditioning for the Cowboys right now. Players like Beasely make me cringe because they risk feeding into the horizontal aspects of the offense but don’t challenge the vertical much.

    The vast difference in game we could see from Dez make me optimistic. He is an A+ player and he has more to add to his game. This is something we could watch in Training Camp and see how Dez adjusts. If he starts running deep routes from the slot, he could lead the league in yardage

    • T.

      Beasley = 1st downs