- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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Old School 101 is a three-part series featuring former Cowboys greats tackling key problem areas with the current team. Drew Pearson takes part in the first installment:
Drew Pearson was the original 88.
Pearson is one of the all-time Dallas Cowboys greats, playing from 1973 to 1983. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All-Pro. He averaged 15.8 yards per touch during his career and he led the NFL in receiving yards per game in 1977. If there is anybody that knows how to fix Roy Williams, it's Pearson, who lives in Plano, Texas.
Q: Are you surprised Roy Williams has struggled with Dallas?
Pearson: It's only surprising with the credentials that he brought here from high school and college and being a No. 1 draft pick. He had some good success in Detroit. He had great production and he was a great athlete that you thought it would be a natural fit for him to come to Dallas and have success, especially with the offense that we have.
The running game, great tight end, Miles Austin stepping up on the other side. Another year it was Terrell Owens, so you would think with all that in his favor and the ability he's supposed to bring to this team that his stats and his contribution would be a lot greater.
Pearson: The No. 1 thing I see is that he plays too high.
What do you mean?
Pearson: He plays too tall. That might have been good in high school and college to play that way; he plays too straight up. You can get away with that because your athletic ability and your size plays to your advantage against little guys. ... But they [NFL coaches] have so much time to watch tape and they have an opportunity to watch tape and study you and come up with ways to stop you. And because Roy is so limited in the types of pass routes he runs, the defensive backs and coordinators have caught up to his ability. And now that ability is not enough to make up the difference.
What he's got to do is learn how to play small. They play him off the line of scrimmage, before they weren't playing that. At first, they were like, "How can we stop him." But now, his first move is up. Now defensive backs can get up in there and hold him up for 1.2 seconds, and that's enough to disrupt the pass pattern. They are taking away his favorite routes with the chuck and aggressive man defense. The fade routes, the slant routes man routes, the deeper post routes, those are the only routes he runs effectively.
Saying that, how can you fix Roy?
Pearson: You got to coach him. When I say get lower I don't mean bending over, I mean get in a deeper crouch and come off strong so you don't get them anything to hit, don't give them your check, put your shoulder into the corner to get off. You got to get low and at the top of his route he's up high again. That cornerback can read that, and I can read that up in the press box, I know when the route is going to end. You have to use less choppy steps to get in and out of your break. That means you will get in and out of your break faster. That's how you create separation between you and the defensive back.
Is there a trust factor between Roy and Tony Romo and the coaches? They called only one play for him in the playoff loss to the Vikings.
Pearson: Well, they wanted to win the game. They wanted to go to guys who had been producing at that point. You can't take a chance and go to Roy and hope he can come though. There may be a little confidence factor. You could see it in the play calling. There's no question about that. That's up to Roy to eliminate that. Again, the coordinator is going to call what he thinks is working. I think they have confidence in Roy as a player, but in terms of producing, I think they will look elsewhere.