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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