*Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2015 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features running back Ryan Williams. *
Name: Ryan Williams
Experience: 4 seasons
College: Virginia Tech
Key stat:Injuries have hampered his NFL career to this point – he has just 58 career attempts since 2011 – but Williams was actually selected 33 spots before DeMarco Murray in the 2011 NFL Draft. Williams went 38th overall to Arizona, while the Cowboy selected Murray 71st.
Contract Status:Signed through 2016
2014 Impact:Coming out of training camp there was a belief that maybe Ryan Williams had done enough to win a roster spot on this club, and that could have been the case had the Cowboys not carried Dustin Vaughan as the third quarterback. So Williams spent all of 2014 on the practice squad. Williams made a nice run in that camp, proving to the coaches that he could stay healthy -- which was one of his biggest issues earlier in his career. Williams also needed to prove that he could be counted on as a reliable player in other areas, as well. His film from Arizona showed a tough, talented runner and catcher of the ball, but
his pass blocking was less than perfect and needed some serious work. There were also the questions of whether he could mentally pick up everything he needed to in the offense. With Williams it has never been about the physical questions, but was he willing to work hard enough to pick up the other things. There are those in the organization that really appreciate how hard he is willing to work to learn because without that desire, he would struggle to make the roster not matter how talented he is. What I have learned from this coaching staff is that if, as a player, you do not know what you are doing, they will not put you on the field. It's about trust and this is an area that Ryan Williams is going to have to earn.
Where He Fits: With the departure of DeMarco Murray to the Eagles, the running back position will have a different look in 2015. I really do like the addition of Darren McFadden and the tendering of Lance Dunbar. I don't believe that even with Joseph Randle and Williams currently on the roster that this will keep the front office from adding another back -- whether that is with a trade or through the draft. Where that leaves Williams? That is a great question. He needs to continue to develop that mental side which means in the passing game. His assignments and execution as a blocker will be key. He will also need to develop some value as a special teams performer as well. This was how Joseph Randle beat him out for that final spot in 2014. Trust and confidence is huge for these coaches, and he will need to prove that he is reliable.
David Helman:This offseason has to be considered splendid from Williams' perspective. DeMarco Murray's departure means the running back spot is wide open, and he stands to benefit. Unfortunately for him, it's not going to be that easy. The Cowboys added Darren McFadden to the competition, and another back looks like a likely addition. I fully expect five running backs to take part in training camp, and Williams is going to have his work cut out for him if he wants a roster spot. This past week at the NFL's annual meetings, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said that Williams will need to emphasize his ability as a blocker if he wants to make an impact. Right now I think you'd have to consider him the underdog in the running back competition, but the Cowboys wouldn't have signed him this offseason if they didn't see something they liked.