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Should Roy Williams Play the Slot for the Cowboys?

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By Jonathan Bales

In yesterday’s Mailbag, I stated that Roy Williams’ skill set was not suited for the slot.  Slot receivers are generally very quick in small areas–something Williams is obviously not.

Williams is very talented on “in-breaking” routes, however–slants, posts, ins, and so on.  Because of this, I’ve heard some fans and media alike clamor that Williams should be moved to the slot.  After all, he appears to be a better wide receiver when catching balls in the middle of the field.

I dug into our statistics, and they do seem to support this notion.  Take a look at the chart to the left.  Notice the tremendous disparity between Williams’ production in the middle of the field as compared to the sides, both in yards-per-attempt and completion percentage. 

Slot receivers generally haul in a lot of balls in the middle of the field, so Williams must be well-suited to kick inside, right?

Wrong.  In assuming so, you’d be suffering from a logical error known as “confirming the consequent.”  In effect, the argument could be broken down as follows:

1.  If a player is a slot receiver, he will perform best in the middle of the field.

2.  Roy Williams performs best in the middle of the field.

3.  Therefore, Roy Williams is (or should be) a slot receiver.

The argument might look sound, but the conclusion (3) does not follow from the premises.  It is equivalent to saying:

1.  If it rained last night, the street will be wet.

2.  The street is wet.

3.  Therefore, it rained last night.

There are a multitude of reasons the street could be wet, however, without it having rained.  Similarly, there are a plethora of reasons Roy Williams could perform well over the middle of the field without being well-suited to play in the slot.

One such reason is the nature of the routes he runs and on which he excels.  As I said, Williams flourishes on “in-breaking” routes.  On many of these routes, he does not catch the ball until he is inside the hash-marks . 

Sure, Williams might feel more comfortable when making receptions in the middle of the field, but that is no reason to believe he can dominate as a slot receiver.  There would be little room for him to run slants, posts (other than skinny posts), and so on in the slot–they would take him right into the linebackers.

Thus, don’t expect to see Roy Williams in the slot any more than you did in 2009.

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13 Responses to Should Roy Williams Play the Slot for the Cowboys?

  1. RCS says:

    Why would you set up your argument that way? It is more logical to say:

    If Roy plays better over the middle, he should be a slot receiver.
    Roy plays better over the middle.
    Thus, Roy should be a slot receiver.

    In that instance, you’re affirming the dependent. Now your whole article is ruined.

  2. That’s the point…the argument is flawed and the conclusion does not follow from the premises. It isn’t MY argument, but a popular one for why Williams’ stats might make him a better fit in the slot. I show why the argument is incorrect, and thus how his numbers don’t necessarily mean he would be a better slot WR.

  3. Omar says:

    i think Williams lacks body control, that why he’s so ineffective he could be jammed easily because that and also ’cause he plays to tall like said DP, by the other hand i would like him to add 10 pounds maybe if he gets stronger he wouldn’t be jammed in the line of scrimmage

  4. RCS says:

    You missed the point of my post. Many people argue that Roy plays better over the middle, thus should play the slot. If better middle -> Slot. Roy better middle, thus should play slot.

    That argument, set up in that way, would be valid. YOU set up other people’s argument wrong.

    No one is arguing that if Roy is a better slot receiver, he will perform best in the middle of the field. They are arguing that if he is better in the middle (which he is), he should play the slot. That argument is not flawed at all.

  5. Jonathan Bales says:

    Omar–I actually think Williams’ body control isn’t too bad. Now I mean that in the sense of staying under control and making good adjustments on the football. I will admit he didn’t display those things last season, but he does have the ability.

    RCS–I see your point, but I set it up the way I did but because the claim “A slot WR will perform better over the middle” is more likely to be accepted as true than “If a player performs better over the middle, he is a slot WR.” I think the first claim would generally be thought of as true, while most people would agree the latter is not necessarily true.

  6. Kevin Keithley says:

    How do these (Roy Williams) numbers compare to Romo’s stats for throwing to areas on the field? Most righthanded QB’s are less effective throwing to their left. Is this chart more indicative of Roy’s pass catching ability ot Romo’s pass throwing?

  7. Great point Keith. Here is the link to our grades on Romo which contains a breakdown of his passer rating by areas of the field. http://dallascowboystimes.com/2010/05/grading-the-boys-part-xi-quarterback-tony-romo/

    You can see he was much better when throwing to the right. Roy’s numbers are probably a combination of both factors.

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  10. Matt says:

    Good article. Big receivers like Williams belong on the outside because they can stretch the field and open the middle for slot receivers (Example: Moss and Welker) Slot receivers typically are smaller but much more effective with YAC. I also agree that most of the balls that Williams does catch over the middle are on deeper inside routes and most of these are usually against zone coverage. While it’s on my mind (and has nothing to do with the Boys’) but it will be very exciting to see how the Bengals offense looks next year with Johnson stretching the field and Shipley in the slot. I really think Shipley was the steal of the draft. He reminds me so much of Welker, and maybe even a little bit quicker than Welker is. Anyways, like the article!

  11. Thanks Matt. I agree with your thoughts on Williams and Shipley. I would have loved to see Dallas get Shipley, although it became a non-issue after Dez fell in the 1st round.

  12. RCS says:

    Fair enough, Jonathan. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

  13. No problem RCS. Thanks for reading. I also appreciate you taking the time to let me know where you thought I went wrong. I try to make as solid of arguments as possible, but I’m not immune from errors. Any time you think I messed up, call me out….it will make both of our arguments stronger.

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