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Cowboys' Rookie Mauls Lions, Explains Progress


There was a lot of belief in what Sam Williams could be for the Cowboys eventually, but it appears eventually has already arrived early in his rookie season

ARLINGTON, Texas - Well hello there, Sam Williams. It's unfathomable to consider the depth enjoyed on the defensive line by the Dallas Cowboys in 2022, but the world is reminded of it seemingly on a weekly basis - the Week 7 battle with the Detroit Lions being Williams' turn to take over center stage en route to a 24-6 victory at AT&T Stadium.

The rookie second-round pick has really come on as of late, having had the best outing of his young NFL career in Week 5 against Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams, leading defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to make a strong proclamation on Oct. 10 about the record-setting former Ole Miss defensive end.

"You'll likely see guys like him improve fast over the next couple of months," said Quinn. "I expect that to continue."

Two months? Scoff.

Try two weeks, coach.

"Outstanding," said head coach Mike McCarthy of Williams' play as of late. "Sam is an excellent example of one our rookie players, our young players playing great today. Very proud of Sam. He had some learning experiences earlier in the year, I think the last two weeks he's flashed big time with his opportunities."

Williams will probably be the villain in every one of Jared Goff's nightmares for some time to come after sacking him twice on Sunday, also landing the trifecta in the fourth quarter with a sack-fumble-recovery hat trick that led to Dak Prescott and the Cowboys taking advantage with a drive that became the first career NFL touchdown for tight end Peyton Hendershot.

"I stay confident because I trust my training," Williams said of his rapid Year 1 progression. "Being a rookie, I just play my role and my role right now is to be a guy that can come in at any point of the game - if anybody goes down - and to keep the same energy or to do better than the guy that was in front of me. That's my role and I'm just trying to play my part."

He's doing that in spades as of late, having quickly become yet another weapon on Quinn's already lethal defensive front that specializes in bullying opposing quarterbacks into submission. On Sunday, Williams became only the fourth rookie in Cowboys history to record two sacks and a forced fumble in a game - the other three being Micah Parsons (2021), Victor Butler (2009) and DeMarcus Ware (2005).

Is that good? Seems good.

"It feels good as a team, collectively," said Williams of how his impact plays fueled a day headlined not simply by the return of Prescott but by the defense landing five takeaways and allowing no touchdowns for the first time this season. "And I know that moving forward it's gonna be even better."

Don't presume to believe Williams is getting caught up in his own hype, though, because the 23-year-old is still focused on how he can get better going forward.

"I can really [work on being] consistent," he said. "The game is just starting to get a little slower for me so, now, I just gotta be consistent and play with effort like I've been doing. … It comes with studying. I've learned how to study the NFL way. In college I studied a little bit differently than I do here, but now the game is slowed [down] and I pay attention to the small details.

"I watch the game if I'm not in [as well], so if there's an O-lineman [that is struggling against a certain move] I'm like, 'Well, I can do that, too.' I'm just trying to be a student of the game right now."

Frustrations were rampant for a Cowboys defense that missed 10 tackles and failed to dominate Jalen Hurts in the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles one week ago - more accurately described by Quinn as the unit being "pissed off" - and that manifested itself against the Lions.

"It's a bounce back," said Williams.

More accurately, it might be a trampoline.

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