NFC East Issues/Answers-Dallas Cowboys

Can Roy Williams handle being Dallas' top wide receiver?...Who will be Tony Romo's go-to passing option?...Can Mike Jenkins be an improvement over Anthony Henry at cornerback?...These questions and more answered inside.

Dallas Cowboys

Issue No. 1: Can Roy Williams handle being the team's top wide receiver?

Answer: If someone wanted to base the answer to this questions solely on his performance from last season, the answer would be a resounding, no.

When Dallas gave up three picks (first, third, and sixth) in the 2009 draft for the Williams prior to last year's October trade deadline, it was assumed he would take over as the team's top receiver once Terrell Owens was done playing for the team. Owens was released by Dallas earlier this year and the top spot on the receiver depth chart is now in Williams' lap.

Prior to the 2008 season, Williams had a 14.88 career yards per catch average to go along with seven touchdowns per season.

Last season, Williams had career lows in receptions (36), yardage (430), touchdowns (2), and average per catch (11.9). And in a telling stat, he was only targeted 82 times in his 15 games played for the Lions and Cowboys last season. While Williams wasn't Dallas' top passing target after arriving there, he really didn't command the ball, either.

The knock on Williams coming out of the University of Texas was that he didn't always bring his "A" game and giving consistent effort was an issue. A good example of this was the season finale in 2008 against the Philadelphia Eagles. This was a game that both teams needed in order to have a chance to make the playoffs. In the most important game of his short career, Williams only posted two receptions for a whopping four yards. Over his final three games last season, Williams only caught six passes for 21 yards. In that game against Philadelphia, he looked to be going at half speed.

There have been times during his career that Williams has really stood out from the crowd. He'll make a spectacular catch and is capable of putting several good games together. But that's the operative phrase, capable. The potential is there, but he has yet to prove that he's going to be a top flight NFL receiver.

Don't be surprised if TE Jason Witten leads Dallas in receptions this season by a wide margin. Witten has developed very good timing and chemistry with Tony Romo during Romo's three years as the starter at quarterback. It won't happen overnight with Romo and Williams. While both players have been spending a lot of time in the off season trying to get themselves on the same page, chemistry between a quarterback and receiver takes time to develop. And can Williams attract as many double teams as Owens did? That's a true test of what defenses think about a receiver, it's in how they game plan.


Issue No. 2: Will Mike Jenkins be an improvement over Anthony Henry at cornerback?

Answer: As a rookie last season, Jenkins appeared in 14 games, but only started three. His playing time increased as the season progressed and he wound up playing in roughly 37 percent of the defensive snaps.

But in those three starts, Jenkins made some rookie mistakes and gave up a few big plays. A personnel source told Scout.com that Jenkins was out of position at times and would lose focus. Jenkins According to Stats Inc., Jenkins was targeted 49 times by opposing passers last season and gave up 28 receptions for 312 along with three scores.

Henry, who was traded to the Detroit Lions earlier this year, was targeted 89 times last season and gave up 59 receptions for 702 yards along with six touchdowns. Henry, had he not been traded, was probably going to be moved to safety.

Jenkins is unlikely to be challenged for his starting job since there aren't any veteran cornerbacks left on Dallas' roster. But one player who played well last season in limited playing time was CB Orlando Scandrick. The former 2008 fifth-round pick played in roughly 38 percent of the defensive snaps and only gave up one score.

Jenkins, while possessing quite a bit of upside, needs to round off his game and it would be smart if Dallas signed a veteran cornerback who could challenge him for playing time or at least be an insurance policy if he struggles.

In time, Jenkins probably will be show the team why they selected him in the first round, but the expectations should be tempered a bit this season.


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