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Cowboys Training Camp Battles: Roy Williams vs. Dez Bryant | The DC Times

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Cowboys Training Camp Battles, Part VI: Roy Williams vs. Dez Bryant

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By Jonathan Bales

In the first five parts of my Training Camp Battles Series, I analyzed the future of the nickel linebackerdefensive end, free safety, left tackle, and cornerback positions.

Today comes the battle most fans think of as “the big one”–veteran Roy Williams versus rookie Dez Bryant.  I have yet to speak to a fan who doesn’t believe that Bryant and Miles Austin are the future of the Cowboys’ wide receiver position.  If Dallas’ roster decisions were simply a popularity contest, Williams would have been out of Big D awhile ago.

Nonetheless, Williams truly does appear to have a new attitude this season.  He’s been brash.  He’s been talkative.  He’s been conceited.  A few months ago he said:

“Dez Bryant wants to play.  The only way he is going to play is to get No. 11 off the field, and that’s going to be tough to do.”

Sound a bit different from the ’09 version of Roy Williams?  I explained in a previous article why this isn’t a “new” Roy Williams, but instead, we are finally obtaining a glimpse of the “old” Roy Williams–the University of Texas variety.

The quote came just a few weeks after I begged Williams to do whatever he can to regain his “swag. When your team drafts the consensus number one receiver (in terms of pure talent) just months after a breakout season by a young receiver who figures to be in Dallas for quite a few years, you have no choice but to come out swinging.  What does Williams have to lose?

Williams is supremely talented, but in 2010 we will discover if he is a true champion.  If so, Bryant will have to fight like hell to win the No. 2 receiver job.

Scouting Reports

  • Roy Williams

Make no mistake about it–Roy Williams struggled badly in 2009.  I gave him a “D+” in my 2009 Cowboys wide receiver grades.

We all know the sort of routes Williams is comfortable running: ins, digs, slants, posts, i.e. routes where he can catch the ball in stride and get moving downfield.  He actually has fairly good speed once his engine starts running.

Despite the recent drops, Williams also has some of the better hands in the NFL.  He made circus-like catches game after game in Detroit (with few drops), meaning his current struggles are more mental than anything.

Williams’ biggest weakness is a lack of quickness which inhibits his ability to effectively run routes which invoke a quick stop, such as comebacks and curls.

Like I said earlier, Williams should really not worry about his on-field ability for now and concentrate on regaining his confidence.  If he does that, he has a legitimate shot at holding onto his job–for now.

  • Dez Bryant

Taken from my original pre-draft scouting report on Bryant:

Bryant is an absolute beast. There is simply no other way to put it. He is ranked No. 10 in our latest Big Board, and he is only that low due to concerns about his attitude and work ethic.

Bryant is a bit of a mystery to us. He does bone-headed things like show up to his Pro Day with no cleats or (allegedly) arrive late to games. However, one look at the guy lets you know he is a hard-worker. Everybody knows Bryant can play–the question teams must answer will be how much he loves football.

On the field, we are confident in saying Bryant is every bit as talented as Larry Fitzgerald when he left Pitt. That is a gigantic statement, but this kid has gigantic game. His game tape and production are off the charts. He displays top-notch hands and run after the catch ability.

We loved Michael Crabtree coming out of Texas Tech last year, and we will tell you there is really no comparing him to Bryant. Bryant is superior in every aspect of the game–he runs better routes and is even more dangerous once he gets his hands on the ball.

Bryant recorded varying forty times at his Pro Day–from 4.52 (which he ran twice) to 4.68. We are unconcerned about that number. He plays as fast as any receiver in this class and we have yet to see him get caught from behind.

Again, every concern about Bryant is an off-field issue. If he can prove he has the requisite attitude and work ethic to succeed in the NFL, there is simply no way he drops to the Cowboys.

Pros/Cons of Starting. . .

  • Roy Williams

Williams has experience in the Cowboys’ system (even if he has yet to excel in it) and will have an immediate leg up on Bryant due to his knowledge of the playbook.  Don’t forget Williams is a naturally gifted pass-catcher who can be a big-time red zone threat.  He scored seven touchdowns last season despite hauling in just 43 total catches.  He’s also a darn good blocker (he’s not a devastating hitter, but Williams uses his size and excellent body position to open lanes for the backs).

On the downside, the Cowboys may be stunting the growth of Bryant if they hold him back this season.  Everybody and their brother thinks Bryant is the future for Dallas out wide, so why wait?

  • Dez Bryant

The biggest pro of starting Bryant immediately: upside.  The kid could struggle in 2010, or he could be amazing.  If the latter is the case, opposing defenses simply won’t have enough players to effectively stop Bryant, Austin, Witten, Jones & Co.  And as large of a red zone threat as Williams may be, Bryant is even better.  He has perhaps the most polished ball skills of any receiver coming out of college since Larry Fitzgerald.

Bryant’s inexperience does make starting him a risk, however.  He also figures to be dynamite on returns, but his time there could be limited if he is starting opposite Austin.


This battle is different from previous ones in that both players can be on the field at the same time.  I explained a few weeks ago why the Cowboys should run more three-receiver sets in 2010.  You can probably expect to see both Williams and Bryant on the field together quite a lot this season.

As of right now, though, Williams is the starter.  Most NFL pundits believe Bryant will overtake him by the start of the season, but I wouldn’t be so sure.  The preseason will be vital for Williams, but if he can make a few plays (and avoid any drops), I wouldn’t bet against him opening the season as the starter.

I’ve been vocal in my support for Williams thus far this offseason, so I won’t stop now.  In reality, it is simple for the former UT star:  if he plays consistently well in both the preseason and regular season, he will retain his job.  If not, he won’t.

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12 Responses to Cowboys Training Camp Battles, Part VI: Roy Williams vs. Dez Bryant

  1. Omar says:

    please do it roy!!

  2. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    I really don’t think this is a battle. Roy Williams has the spot and for Dez to take it would mean that Roy would have to basically forget how run and chew gum at the same time and Dez would have to be a reincarnation of Jerry Rice in his prime.

    Make no mistatke about it – Roy is the starter and will be (probably) at least until week 5 (the bye week). If he stinks it up by then, expect JJ to make the move. For right now, they’ll “battle” in camp, push each other and improve the team overall. It’ll be a postivie thing but in the end, Roy is the guy opposite Miles.

  3. A little surprised by your opinion but I do basically agree with it. I do think a sensational preseason and initial first few games could get him into the starting lineup earlier than Week 5.

    BTW..the bye is week four. . .what a terrible time.

  4. MARK KILLIAN says:

    The thing I like about Dez is that he doesn’t let the ball touch his body. He’s all hands and he has fly paper hands.

    One off the subject comment. As a Nit alum ,- if I am not mistaken – I couldn’t help but notice that you did not have Sean Lee on your top 100, while the Cowboys had him #14 on their board.

    Why did you have him ranked in the fourth round or lower? Do you think the pick was a reach?

    There is no doubt about his field awareness and love for the game. I have seen every game he has played and I believe you are going to be absolutely amazed at this kid’s athletic ability.

  5. johncoleman says:

    Tyrone is right on in his assessment. If Roy returns to his old form he is safe. If not will he even be here the whole season? I’m definitely thinking he has to produce early or he is history. He will start opening day for sure barring a monster preseason by Bryant and a complete failure on his part.

  6. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    I think Crayton and Hurd are essentially insurance policies for Roy. If Roy does poorly out the gate, he’ll be trade bait (probably garner a 5th rd pick). If he does mediocre, he’ll probably last the season where he is either cut or traded in the off-season. If he does well, Crayton and Hurd both will probably be cut ($2 million dollar savings on Crayton alone) and Ogletree will move to 4th (maybe Manual Johnson or Jesse Holley move to 5th). That’d be a much cheaper and much younger way to go.

    The thing that surprises me is that it seems as if noone is the slightest bit concerned about Miles Austin and whether or not he will produce like last year. Don’t get me wrong – Miles has a strong season and I hople that continues. It jsut seems a little premature that everyone has pretty much settled on the fact that he’s ARRIVED and that he’ll be the #1 for years to come.

    I sure hope that he is, but I’m a realist.

  7. johncoleman says:

    I think Miles will be fine. However towards the end of the season teams were keying on him. So we definitely need big time production from another WR. If not then it’s like Steve Smith in Carolina.

  8. I have to admit I am higher on Lee now after seeing him play a bit, but I didn’t have him high on my board due to a (perceived) lack of upside. Now, I many be completely wrong, but Lee’s potential may be slightly limited due to the fact that he HAS worked so hard already. His work ethic and determination are second to none, and while I truly value that in a player, I have slight concerns that he may have peaked. Of course, I could (hopefully) be completely wrong.

  9. I don’t think Crayton and Hurd will both be cut. I actually don’t think either will, although I acknowledge one of them leaving is a realistic possibility. And I would have to say I’m on the Austin bandwagon as well. Sometimes players have fluky seasons that do not equate to their talent level. Austin is extremely talented. His game film speaks volume and he’s one of the few players I feel 100 percent comfortable labeling a ‘star’ after one good season.

  10. Don’t forget Witten and the RBs can also take a lot of pressure off of Austin, although Bryant’s potential to do so is seemingly unlimited.

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