Commentary

Roy Williams finally earns his keep

Disappointing WR shrugs off criticism, keeps working, has best game as a Cowboy

Updated: September 28, 2010, 11:09 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- The patience and determination of Roy Williams are monk-like.

They have to be.

He signed a $45 million contract and hasn't held up his end of the bargain.

But the Roy Williams the Dallas Cowboys are paying for showed up Sunday afternoon at Reliant Stadium.

He caught five passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns. The touchdown receptions were from 63 and 15 yards. Of the 10 biggest plays in the Cowboys' 27-13 victory over the Houston Texans, Williams was involved in three of them.

It would appear the chemistry between Tony Romo and Williams is finally there.

Williams disagrees. He says it's been there all season.

[+] EnlargeRoy Williams
Bob Levey/Getty ImagesRoy Williams had his best day as a Cowboy on Sunday with five catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns.

"I'm glad it hasn't been talked about, but it's been there from game one," Williams said. "It's always been there. It's been under the radar, and that's the way I want to keep it. I don't want it on me. I just want to keep playing my game."

The Cowboys waited for this moment since they traded three draft picks to the Detroit Lions for Williams at the trade deadline in 2008.

Heading into this season, Williams had just 57 catches for 794 yards and eight touchdowns in 25 games as a Cowboy. The only 100-yard game until Sunday was in a loss. Williams had three games with zero catches and 12 more with only one or two receptions.

Some family members couldn't stand the criticism from fans and the media. Williams' brothers and mother read the papers, websites, blogs and comments from readers.

The comments bothered his mom. Not her son.

"It just gets old saying I can't play and yada, yada, yada," he said. "At the same time, I'm a guy who will say it's my fault, it's my fault. But a lot of people don't see it's not my fault all the time, but I don't let it get to me when people write something or say something."

At the start of training camp, Williams elected to lose weight, to go from 218 pounds to 211 pounds, to gain more speed and quickness. There's a running joke that Williams now has abs, something he didn't have when he played with the Lions.

Williams decided to practice differently, too. He practices faster so he can simulate game conditions. He improved his chemistry with Romo, perfecting the back-shoulder fade routes and becoming more efficient with his route running.

He's more dependable on running the slant routes because he can run by defenders for big gains with his quickness. Williams' 15-yard touchdown reception Sunday was on a slant.

He made sure he developed a command of the offense so that if there are any issues, it's not because he doesn't know what to do on the field.

"Roy is a real smart player, too," coach Wade Phillips said. "I think he works at what he does really well and really smart. He knows coverages and he knows what they're trying to do to him, and he and Tony kinda know what they want to do, and that's a real plus."

Sometimes Williams just can't get a break. During training camp in Oxnard, Calif., and San Antonio, Williams was booed by fans if he made the same mistake that was ignored when made by another receiver. Williams just shrugged it off like it was no big deal.

Williams was even ripped by fans and some in the media for telling Dez Bryant to carry his shoulder pads, something the rookie wide receiver refused to do. But other players across the league applauded Williams' efforts for upholding an NFL tradition.

Bryant offered to buy the wide receivers dinner to make up for the shoulder pads incident, but as of last week, it hadn't happened.

This hasn't bothered Williams or Bryant. After Bryant made a first-down reception against the Bears in Week 2, he pointed toward an approving Williams on the sideline.

No matter what he does, the fans don't want to give Williams a break.

After a critical fumble that ended the Cowboys' chances at rallying past the Bears, a fan told Williams to sell his house.

"A Cowboy fan," Williams said. "Like I said in training camp, I'm the Kobe Bryant of this thing. Either you're going to like me or you don't. And that guy didn't like me."

Sunday might have been one of those days when the Cowboys saw just how good their receiving corps can be. If Miles Austin gets double coverage, it opens the door to big plays for Williams and Bryant.

If the Cowboys establish the running game, which was the case against the Texans, all three receivers see single coverage, and then Romo can pick and choose where he wants to go with the ball.

When Williams gets the ball, the fans used to dread it.

Maybe not anymore after seeing things play out Sunday.

"He's taken it and the way he's handled himself," owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. "And I'm talking about the way he's taken the criticism and his own disappointments and to come back here and improve. He's an example of manning up and staying with it and having your day and hopefully more days to come. I'm real proud of him."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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