02:55 AM CDT on Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The Cowboys haven't taken full advantage of Roy Williams' talent since Darren Woodson retired three seasons ago.
That needs to change immediately. Jerry Jones agrees.
Jones signed Ken Hamlin last week for one reason: to help make Williams an impact player again.
If he does, then Hamlin will be worth every bit of the one-year, $2.5 million contract he signed last week, and after the season Jerry will open up his checkbook and give him a long-term deal just like he did with Andre Gurode.
If Hamlin doesn't, it means Jerry will have failed Williams, the franchise, the fans and himself again.
See, Williams isn't supposed to be a good player. He's supposed to be great player, which is why the Cowboys made him the eighth player selected in 2002. And that's why Jerry handed him a $12 million signing bonus last summer and a multi-year deal, essentially making him a Cowboy for life.
But he can't be great playing 20 yards from the line of scrimmage in a conservative scheme that uses a lot of Cover 2 principles that illuminate his weaknesses and none of his strengths. In that scheme, Williams can be good a player.
After all, he has been to four consecutive Pro Bowls, but a faction of the league will continue to call him overrated. Consistently place Williams near the line of scrimmage – like Wade Phillips intends to do this season – so he can disrupt running plays with his athleticism and instincts and pressure quarterbacks by blitzing, and he can be an impact player every week.
That didn't happen last year.
Of course, Williams made his share of big plays and occasionally dominated an entire game like he did in a blowout win over Houston, but too many times he didn't tilt the game in the Cowboys' favor.
Now, Williams has never publicly complained about his role. It's not his style. He was taught to do what the coaches asked him to do – even if he doesn't necessarily like it or agree with it – to the best of his ability.
Williams has never been more of a playmaker than he was as a rookie. It's no coincidence that season that he was paired with Woodson, who made sure the rest of the secondary was properly lined up, especially after the offense used shifting or motion to change the formation.
All Williams had to do was make highlight reel plays on a regular basis just like he did as a consensus All-America at Oklahoma.
Although the Cowboys were 7-2 with Keith Davis starting at free safety, it's clear they don't trust him to handle the job. They really view him as more of a strong safety – run supporter – than free safety. Hamlin can deliver big hits, thus the nickname "Hammer," but he's a free safety who has some run-support capabilities.
There's a subtle difference. Hamlin has only eight interceptions in his first four seasons, but the Cowboys like his range and intelligence, two very important traits for a free safety.
With Hamlin at free safety in the aggressive scheme Phillips and Brian Stewart are implementing, there's no reason Williams shouldn't have the same type of weekly impact as Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu or Baltimore's Ed Reed.
Scheme alone, however, won't make Williams more of a playmaker.
He needs to lose about 10 pounds. You'd be surprised how much quicker that would make him, allowing him to slither past blockers before they lock onto him.
And the Cowboys need to rest him more this season, especially during practice. There's no need for Williams to take every practice repetition this season. Save his legs in practice and he'll be better during games. They neglected to do it last year – former coach Bill Parcells didn't believe in it – and Williams' tendinitis flared up.
The Cowboys also want Williams to be more of a student of the game. It's not a matter of watching more video, but spending the time to understand the nuances of route combinations so he can better anticipate where a receiver is going to run based on down and distance.
Phillips is a master at using stunts and blitzes to enhance his scheme and take advantage of his players' talents. Parcells believed the integrity of the scheme was more important than showcasing the players.
You might say he preferred robots, but he did win two Super Bowls as a head coach. Williams would probably settle for ending the Cowboys 10-year streak – the longest in franchise history – without a playoff win.
Having Hamlin should help him do it.
LACK OF IMPACT
Columnist Jean Jacques-Taylor's formula shows just how much impact the Cowboys have gotten from Roy Williams:
Yr. Sacks TFL FF FR INT TD Total
'02 2 7 4 3 5 2 23
'03 2 6 2 1 2 0 13
'04 0 5 1 0 2 0 8
'05 2.5 2 3 1 3 1 12.5
'06 0 2 0 2 5 2 9