Dallas Cowboys fans go through a lot of trends over time.
For a while, there was a loud crowd which yelled for Tony Romo's head and wanted for the team to start over and rebuild, beginning with a change at the quarterback position.
Then came the "Jason Garrett claps too much" crowd, who criticized Garrett's robotics on the sideline and during post-game pressers.
This offseason, however, has seen an incredible rise in the "I hate Terrance Williams" fan club.
It makes sense. Williams had a promising season in 2014 with Romo at the helm as the number two weapon to Dez Bryant. However, 2015 didn't come with as much success for Williams following injuries to both Romo and Bryant.
I am here to say to you, Cowboys Nation, that the Terrance Williams hate needs to be relaxed a bit.
First of all, no single player will benefit more from the returns of both Romo and Bryant than Terrance Williams.
Williams is the epitome of a number two receiver. No more, no less.
The Williams hate-train gained more and more steam as the 2015 season went on due to the fact that he was asked to fulfill a role he simply isn't mean to play. Once Bryant went down, we all expected and wished for Williams to step up and fill Dez's shoes to an extent. We wanted him to showcase his talents which many thought he had, and make big plays down the field.
Instead, we saw Williams for exactly what he is; a number two receiver.
When he is at his best, Williams is able to play the role of an outside receiver and isn't forced to run a full route-tree. When he is able to play opposite of Dez Bryant, he can play in this role and excel. But, when he was forced to be the number one guy, he just couldn't cut it.
But now, welcome to 2016. Or should I say, welcome back to 2014.
The 2014 season was a fantastic one for almost anyone involved with the Dallas Cowboys. And, even though some of the numbers may not show it, this holds true for Williams as well.
While being targeted only 64 times, Williams hauled in 8 touchdowns, a career high.
He then finished off his 2014 campaign with two solid playoff performances, combining for 4 receptions for 130 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Dez Bryant has seen some ridiculous coverages during his career, but this was especially true during the Cowboys' playoff run in 2014. This allowed Williams to work against one defender, find open space, and make big plays.
Of course, there is the other reason for me to expect a resurgence from Terrance Williams.
It's a contract year, and that usually changes everything.
The odds that Williams remains a Cowboy in 2017 are slim, regardless of how well he may perform this season.
The team has a lot of money in other places, like in Romo and Dez, which will hurt the Cowboys chances of retaining Williams.
Newest Cowboy Ezekiel Elliott will take up a considerable amount of cap room as well, with a $5 million cap hit in 2017.
Then of course, the "Great Wall of Dallas" will each be due for negotiations over the next few years.
To make matters worse for Williams chances in Dallas, many expect Brice Butler to emerge as the number two receiver in the near future. Butler would be able to potentially fill the same role as Williams, while doing so at a much cheaper price.
While Williams may be done in Dallas after this season, that doesn't mean he can't get paid elsewhere. And, I expect him to do so.
So yes, Cowboys Nation, Terrance Williams' talent has a clearly defined ceiling. He has shown that he isn't much more than a number two receiver who possesses some big play ability at times.
But this year, his abilities, while limited, are all he will need. He won't be asked to fulfill any roles outside of his talent range, and hopefully won't be asked to do anything that superstar Dez Bryant would normally do.
In this number two role, Williams will shine.
BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension
Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.
Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.
Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.
The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.
While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.
The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.
Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.
Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT is Just Getting Started
Antwaun Woods went undrafted in 2016 coming out of USC. After two years with the Tennessee Titans, he would only see one game of action. In May of 2018, the Cowboys signed Woods to a two-year contract worth 1.05 million. Probably seen as nothing more than a practice squad guy, Woods would quickly show he was much more than that.
The newly acquired Woods started his climb to stardom in Oxnard during training camp, and not for making plays. One day during practice he got into a friendly game of fisticuffs with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick. The team even posted the video on social media, which had fans buzzing and wanting to know who he was.
All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott echoed those thoughts when he saw Woods during camp. "Honestly, when we first got him, we were like, 'Who is this guy?'. He was giving Travis Frederick, one of our best players, hell all camp. Just trying to figure out where this guy came from," Elliott said.
Once the regular season started it was clear the Cowboys had found a hidden gem. Although the sack numbers won't dazzle you, seeing as he only registered 1.5, you could forget about running the ball anywhere near him. Woods has amazing quickness for a 300 pounder which allows him to extend his arms before offensive lineman can get a hand on him.
How significant is that? It becomes that much easier to bull rush and blow running plays up in the backfield.
When you can get your hands on an offensive lineman immediately when the ball is snapped, he's basically under your control. You can move him around like a puppet on a string. Essential for a 1-technique nose tackle. With that being said, there should be no surprise the Cowboys finished fifth against the run in 2018 with Woods manning the middle.
Woods draws a lot of double teams, and he handles them well. Having the ability to take on multiple linemen frees up your other playmakers. As the anchor in the middle, Woods made life a lot easier for not only his fellow defensive linemen but the team's two young star Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Allowing them to roam freely like Lions in the Serengeti makes running backs essentially Zebra's carrying the ball, cooked food. So much so that both tallied over 120 tackles and were the only teammates in the NFL to rank in the top 15 in that category.
There's nothing but upside with Antwaun Woods. He's only had 18 games of experience in three years. He's already a stud, but with limited snaps, it can only mean he'll be even more formidable going forward.
The Cowboys have a loaded defensive lineman group with around 15 bodies, plenty of competition. All signs point to him remaining the starter, but it's not guaranteed. Even with that being said I don't expect a complacency from Woods, especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn looking like the only sure starters on the defensive line. Plus this is a contract year for him, so you know he'll be even more motivated as he tries to maximize his dollars. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg from this raw talent, setting up for a potential breakout year for him in 2019.
Cedrick Wilson: Cowboys WR Could Shine After a Year Off
The departure of Cole Beasley to Buffalo via free agency in March left a hole at the slot receiver position in Dallas. The team signed veteran Randall Cobb about a week later, but only to a one year deal. Names like Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns along with Cobb are looked at as the replacement for Beasley but don't forget about Cedrick Wilson.
Selected in the sixth round in 2018, Wilson was coming off an impressive and highly productive two-year career at Boise State. Tallying 139 receptions for 2,640 yards and 18 touchdowns in just 26 games.
When OTA's began last season, the rookie was already turning heads with his route running, ability to create separation and athleticism, but unfortunately, disaster happened not long afterward. Wilson would suffer a shoulder injury that placed him on injured reserve for 2018, the same shoulder he had issues with in college. A not so fairy tale beginning to an NFL career.
Although his time on the field was short-lived last summer, he definitely caught the eye of wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal.
"Ced's a savvy, smart football player. He picks things up really well. He applies them to the field. In terms of technique, he's one of the best if you watch him. His stance and start is really good. He comes off the ball with low pad level. He's eating up ground and then has a nack to make a big play over the top on a big post," Lal said.
Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb make up a very formidable receiving core, and adding a healthy Wilson to that could work wonders. His experience on the outside and the slot gives offensive coordinator Kellen Moore plenty of options. Slot receivers are usually harder to bump off the line with the extra few yards of cushion they get, giving them more options route wise seeing as they can go inside or out a lot easier than outside receivers. That's where Wilson's supreme route running can come into play. Also, with his ability to separate on the outside and beat corners deep, you can play him opposite Amari Cooper and put Cobb in the slot with a combination of either Gallup, Austin or Hurns in a four-wide receiver set, the possibilities are endless.
A setback can be a blessing in disguise if approached in the right manner. Wilson hasn't let the year off derail his focus on what he's trying to do in Dallas.
"Coming back off the rehab was tough in general. But definitely a year of just seeing how everything goes, the speed is definitely slowing down. Just getting back in the playbook and learning from older guys of what I need to do and doing what the coaches expect of me," Wilson said.
The competition won't be easy for Wilson, though, as other young up and coming receivers are fighting for roster spots as well. UDFA's (Undrafted Free Agents) Jon'Vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton will also be fighting for snaps during mini-camp, with the former already making waves during OTA's. Reggie Davis has also turned a few heads in the summer, a fellow UDFA himself trying to find a home after bouncing around the league between four different teams since 2017.
It's all about health for Cedrick Wilson at this point. Can his shoulder hold up enough to allow his skill set to make a contribution to the Cowboys in 2019? The talent is there, along with the praises of his position coach, now it'll be interesting to see if this potential diamond in the rough can shine under the bright lights of AT&T Stadium.
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