Scouts Inc.: Williams can fill void for Cowboys

March, 5, 2009
3/05/09
11:15
AM ET

Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson

Where have you gone T.O.?
Terrell Owens has been fading out of the Cowboys offense over the past three seasons:
  '06 '07 '08
Thrown to 147 132 131
Receptions 85 81 69
Comp pct 58% 61% 53%
Pct of Offense* 29.1 24.9 23.9
*Percent of passes attempted to Owens

The Dallas Cowboys finally decided Terrell Owens was too expensive and controversial to keep, so they released him Wednesday. Where does this leave Dallas' attack, in particular the receiving corps?

The good news is Dallas did plan for this day. Owens, who will be 36 in December, is not the elite threat he once was. In October 2008, the Cowboys traded a 2009 first-, third- and sixth-round selection to the Detroit Lions for wideout Roy E. Williams. They did not get immediate great returns on the deal -- Williams caught just 19 passes in 10 games with the Cowboys. But he is an immense talent. It certainly could be argued that Williams is a far superior player to any wideout that Dallas could have selected with the 20th overall selection -- the pick Detroit got from Dallas -- in April's draft. Still, much more is required from this rare specimen.

Williams has everything you look for in a No. 1 wideout. His short stint in Dallas has been underwhelming. But consider the circumstances Williams faced when he became a Cowboy: He appeared to be battling injury and was thrown into a new offense without the benefit of a training camp with the Cowboys. Then, Tony Romo's injured finger obviously affected how he threw the football down the stretch last season.

It is not a coincidence the Cowboys acquired Jon Kitna, Williams' former Lions' teammate, to provide a backup for Romo. Williams will play the role of Owens and he has all the physical abilities to do it admirably. Now it is on Williams to step up and no more excuses should be tolerated. Much of the fate of this offense is in Williams' hands.

Patrick Crayton isn't a dynamic wideout, but he is steady and tough. He is a stretch as a No. 2 receiver, but the reality is that Crayton will be at best a No. 3 option in this offense. Tight end Jason Witten very well could end up leading the team in receptions. Few tight ends are as valuable and Romo loves getting him the ball. Witten rarely lets his quarterback down.

Keep your eyes on two other Cowboys' weapons as they enter their second seasons. Backup tight end Marcellus Bennett and running back Felix Jones are up-and-comers whose roles should expand in Dallas' passing attack. Expect to see far more double-tight end sets in 2009 to get the incredibly talented Bennett on the field with more regularity. Meanwhile, Jones will often detach from the formation with intentions of exploiting linebacker coverage.

It should also be noted that Dallas' massive offensive line is more adept at run blocking than in protection. With running backs Marion Barber, Tashard Choice and Jones in the fold, Dallas would be wise to increase the percentage of times they run the football. Jones is on the verge of becoming an excellent player who can contribute in a lot of different ways.

As backup wide receivers go, you could do worse than Miles Austin and Sam Hurd. Both have size, upside and youth on their side. While the Cowboys lack a first-round pick in the 2009 draft, they still could add wide receiver help in a very deep draft at that position. They potentially could sign a proven veteran at this position to challenge Crayton. The Cowboys' quarterback situation is stable now and Dallas will not have to force feed Owens to keep the peace.

If Williams steps up his game, the Cowboys' passing attack very well could be more potent this season than it was in 2008, but it rests on Williams' shoulders more than anyone else.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

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