- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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OXNARD, Calif. -- Terrance Williams proved as a rookie that he had the talent to be an NFL playmaker as a part-time player.
Can he be consistent as a starter in his second season with the Dallas Cowboys? That’s the challenge presented to Williams by receivers coach Derek Dooley.
“When you look back at his first year, when he was playing about 35 snaps a game, he was really making some great plays,” Dooley said. “Then there were a bunch of games when he was kind of thrust in and had to play the whole game when Miles [Austin] was hurt and it was hard on him, being able to sustain that mentally and physically and emotionally. So he was a little bit more inconsistent.
“The trick now is to develop that level of consistency where he can perform at his best for 70 plays. That’s not easy.”
The stats seem to indicate that Williams is prepared to be a starter. In seven games in which Williams played more than 50 snaps last season, he caught 28 passes on 47 targets for 459 yards and four touchdowns. He had 16 catches on 27 targets for 277 yards and one touchdown in the other nine games.
However, Williams admits that he had a problem focusing when he was fatigued as a rookie. It’s part conditioning, part concentration.
“I feel like sometimes when I go three deep balls straight, then I have a tendency to take a play off [mentally],” said Williams, who is the unquestioned No. 2 receiver after the Cowboys released Austin in the offseason. “And that play that I take off, the ball is coming my way. When I get tired now, I’m just trying to hold myself accountable, just thinking about what the 10 guys would say standing right next to me.”
The fact that Williams took Dooley’s challenge so seriously certainly didn’t come as a surprise to the Cowboys.
One of the reasons Dallas liked Williams so much as a prospect was that Baylor coach Art Briles raved about the receiver’s work ethic and serious approach to the game. That attitude helped Williams make an impact as a rookie, and the Cowboys hope it will help him use that season as a springboard.
“Of course, my biggest fear is when you have a pretty good first year is [the sophomore slump] because of my history with guys that have felt like, ‘Oh, I got this,’” Dooley said. “Terrance has given no indication of that. In fact, it’s gone the other way. I think it’s motivated him even more because he’s excited about how comfortable he feels and the opportunity that he’s been given.”
Williams intentionally worked his way into exhaustion while running routes during the offseason, often wearing a weight vest to make the sessions more difficult. He believes he’s in better shape now than he was a year ago.
“When I do get tired, the mental mistakes don’t pop in and I can still play at the game speed they’re used to me playing at,” Williams said. “It’s something that I’m practicing out here.”
No matter how hard he works, Williams will get fatigued during games. He's determined not to let fatigue impact focus as he starts his tenure as a starter.