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Next Man Up

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Next Man Up: What to expect from Sam Williams


Like many teams around the league, the Cowboys sent a strong message in free agency. However, it wasn't in the form of adding a lot of players or keeping the majority of their own. What seems clear for the Cowboys is their willingness to give opportunities to younger players on the team.

This roster is loaded with players still on their rookie contracts that haven't had that breakout season just yet. Could it be this year? The Cowboys can only hope, especially considering they signed just one player (Eric Kendricks) in free agency and currently have just six picks in the NFL Draft later this month.

So the Cowboys have to lean on some of their previous drafts and free-agent signings to help fill out this roster.

Today, we'll continue the series with defensive end Sam Williams.

  • Name: Sam Williams
  • Position: Defensive End
  • Experience: 3rd Year
  • Games Played/Starts: 25 / 7
  • Years Left on Contract: 2
  • How Acquired: 2nd round pick, 2022 (Ole Miss)
  • Key Stat: Williams tied for the team lead with four special teams tackles and also had a career-high 4.5 sacks in 2023.

The Past: In two years, Williams has had to fight for playing time, especially on defense as a pass-rusher. In a crowded room headlined by Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence, along with veterans Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler, Williams has still managed 4.0 and 4.5 sacks in the two seasons. This past year, Williams ranked third on the team with 4.5 sacks despite just 17 QB pressures (sixth on the team). Williams also made his mark on special teams as a gunner, a rare position for a defensive end. He tied for the team lead with four special teams tackles.

The Present: With the departure of both Fowler and Armstrong – both signing with Dan Quinn and Washington – the door is open now for Williams more than ever before. As a second-round pick in 2022, Williams has had to wait his turn behind some veterans but the wait should be over now. The Cowboys haven't done much in free agency so far and seem to have other pressing needs over a pass-rusher in the first round. That doesn't rule out a chance for the Cowboys to add another defensive end, but one way or another, Williams is likely to get more chances to rush the quarterback.

The Future: More than just getting to the quarterback, Williams has to show he can be a complete player – against the pass and the run. He had just two tackles for loss in 2024 and so with added playing time, he's going to improve his stock on run defense as well. Another part of Williams' game that needs some ironing out is the penalties. He ranked third on the team in 2023 with seven penalties, despite only playing around 300 snaps. In comparison, Lawrence had over 600 snaps and Parsons was at 864 but had just nine penalties combined. But if Williams can channel some of that aggression but still display some of the athleticism off the edge, this could be a breakout season in his third year.

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