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.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...
...of his offensive lineman.
During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.
As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.
It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.
With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.
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