WACO, Texas – The ultimate Catch 22 has arrived for Terrance Williams.
Entering his second season, the young receiver is undoubtedly looking to improve on a solid rookie campaign in 2013. To do that, he'll need more reps, something that appears to be in the cards this season.
But in order for that scenario to occur, the Cowboys had to let go of Miles Austin, who was waived earlier this month to eventually save about $5.5 million on the cap.
While the move opens the door for Williams to slide into the No. 2 spot, he also loses a teammate and a friend who helped him get through the expected ups and downs of a rookie season.
"That's a good friend of mine and it is kind of bad to see him go," Williams said of Austin, who yet to sign with another NFL team. "He taught me a whole lot of stuff. He kept my mind straight when I wasn't thinking well and he also showed me how to do stuff creatively to deceive my route running. Seeing him leave now is kind of bad but then again I have to continue on doing my job and showing them why they brought me here. It's just going to be a step that I'm going to have to just suck up and do my job the way they brought me here to do."
What they ultimately brought Williams to do was replace Austin, something he actually did last year when Austin struggled with hamstring issues. Williams took over as the starter and remained there even down the stretch when Austin returned.
The Cowboys' goal all along is to have a player complement Dez Bryant on the other side. One person who will be pulling for that to happen is Bryant himself.
Williams said he received a phone call from Bryant earlier this week, urging them both to raise their respective games to a new level.
"It was more like, 'we gotta step up now even more with Miles gone.'" Williams said of Bryant's message. "We have to play our brand of football and basically what people say about what we're doing."
Williams said that was just another example of Bryant becoming more of a vocal leader – something the Pro Bowler vowed do more of in 2013. Williams said Bryant and even Miles Austin, were good leaders because they've learned to pick their spots.
"I feel like when Miles and Dez speak - they don't speak much - but times when they do talk, is when there's something they really, really have to say," Williams said. "They just don't talk just to talk. Normally, when people do that, I normally tend not to pay attention because it's 'hear you go talking again.' But those two guys, when (say something like that), that's when people start paying attention."
Whether or not Williams is ready to become more vocal, he knows more will be expected of him on the field with Austin now out of the picture.
"I feel like I've got to take a huge step from my rookie year into the guy they believe I can be," Williams said. "I'm trying to get there and start off with a fast pace and pay attention to what the new coaches are talking about."
Those new coaches, mainly passing game coordinator Scott Linehan, who comes over from the Lions, have met briefly this offseason. Williams said he's not worried about any major changes to the scheme or learning new terminology this offseason. And it helps he's already worked with Linehan at the Senior Bowl in 2013 when the Lions' staff coached the South squad.
This offseason, Williams says he's working on more physical improvements than mental. He plans on spending most of spring and summer in Waco, working with Baylor's strength coach Kaz Kazadi, along with former teammates Robert Griffin III and Kendal Wright. [embedded_ad]
Williams attended Baylor's Pro Day this week, keeping a close eye on receiver Tevin Reese, who could be the latest Baylor receiver drafted. The moniker "Wide Receiver U" is being tossed around these days in Waco. Some of the best young receivers in the NFL, including Williams and Wright, a first-rounder in 2011 with the Titans who caught 87 passes in 2013. Josh Gordon played two seasons at Baylor and was first-team All-Pro with the Browns and led the entire NFL last year with 1,646 yards.
Former Baylor receiver Lanear Sampson spent time on the Cowboys' practice squad last year and is now in Pittsburgh.
Baylor receivers coach Kendal Briles, the son of head coach Art Briles, said the school is more than proud of the receivers that have gone through Waco here in recent years.
"I try to watch as many games as I can," Briles said. "Last year, I recorded all of the Cowboys games and watched Terrance when I could. But the (Baylor) players will give us updates. They're watching the games and they tell us how T-Dub (Williams) is doing."
Briles recruited Williams out of Dallas back in 2008 and has seen his development over the years. He said last year's rookie season was not a surprise.
"It was classic Terrance Williams," Briles said. "He's going to work hard. He's going to be in the right position. He does great things for the quarterback – he's a quarterback's friend. He's just a natural receiver and knows how to get open. He's going to have a great NFL career."