Terrance Williams calls himself an “opportunist.” It’s probably the best word to describe his first two NFL seasons. The Dallas Cowboys receiver has averaged 16.8 yards per catch and has scored once every 6.2 catches.
“Whenever it’s come my way, I’ve made the most of my plays,” said Williams, a third-round pick in 2013 after a standout career at Baylor. “It might have not been the catches I wanted or the yardage I wanted, but for the most part, I think I made the most of it.
“Whenever I put my mind into something, I came through. I think I did have a great two years, better than what people expected from me, so I can build off that.”
Williams has taken advantage of Dez Bryant’s absence in the Cowboys’ organized team activities. The Cowboys rave about the Williams’ off-season work, with coach Jason Garrett contending Williams has become the pacesetter for the offense “in so many ways.”
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“Terrance has had one of the best off-seasons I’ve seen in a while,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “So I’m very excited about his approach, the way that he’s played up to this point in the off-season. He’s just improved, and I’m excited about that development.”
Playing on a team with Bryant, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray his first two years, Williams found waiting the hardest part of his job. Bryant, Witten and Murray caught 60.9 percent of the team’s passes and accounted for 63 percent of the passing yards and 61.4 percent of the passing touchdowns the past two seasons.
Murray now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles, having left in free agency, but third-down back Lance Dunbar should see his receiving numbers rise this season as could third receiver Cole Beasley. That likely will continue to limit Williams’ targets.
“It’s a challenge when you’re in that role,” receivers coach Derek Dooley said. “It’s a little bit like what I’m telling all the receivers: If you want more balls, you’ve got to continue to get open every play, because the one thing I’ll say about coach [Scott] Linehan, coach [Wade] Wilson, all the quarterbacks, when they watch the film, they’re looking at guys, and they’re watching them. They’re seeing who gets open, so the next time we run it, you’ve got an opportunity.
“Now the second thing that goes with that is: When you do get your opportunity, you’ve got to take advantage of it, and nobody’s done that better than [Williams]. You look at what he’s done in our games. Everybody says, ‘Well, Terrance didn’t really do much that game.’ Well, we threw it to him one time, and he scored. That’s pretty good. He’s always taking advantage of his opportunities, but he’s also earning those opportunities every day at practice, and I hope he stays on that path.”
Williams caught 81 passes for 1,357 yards and 13 touchdowns in two seasons. Only twice in his career has he gone without a catch. He has better numbers than Alvin Harper had in his first two seasons after the Cowboys made him a first-round pick in 1991 as a complementary player to go with Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Jay Novacek.
Williams has eight more touchdowns than Harper had in his first two seasons, six more than Witten scored his first two seasons, six more than Irvin had his first two seasons and only two less touchdowns than Bryant caught his first two seasons.
“Whenever Tony needed somebody else to make a play, I really did take that heart to be the guy to find them a play,” Williams said.
But Williams admits he needs to do a better job when the ball isn’t coming his way. He has worked hard on conquering the “mind battle.”
“I feel like last year sometimes I took a couple of plays off and when Tony threw me the ball I wasn’t ready, so now I’m just going back to just clearing that from my mind and just being ready at all times,” Williams said. “It’s something when I’m doing it daily, when Tony doesn’t throw the ball, I’m still finishing the routes; I’m still doing all the stuff that he’s been telling me to do so during the game I don’t have to question myself when the ball’s not coming my way.”
Williams has done just that this off-season, going all out, every play.
“Just watch him practice,” Garrett said. “He finishes everything. He’s 40, 50 yards down the field after a catch, simulating as if he’s running in for a touchdown. He runs back. He’s in the next play and going. The best receivers, the best players I’ve been around do that. They take that approach, and Terrance has really done a heck of a job.”
Wide receiver Terrance Williams, entering his third season, has accomplished a lot in a short period of time. Here are some impressive two-year career stats:
7 catches of 40 or more yards
22 catches of 20 or more yards