DALLAS – Sam Williams had high expectations of him as soon as the Cowboys turned in his draft card in April. Being a second-round pick was reason enough to have Williams’s bar set relatively high, but adding on the fact that he was brought in to counter the loss Randy Gregory put more gasoline on the fire.
Once the Cowboys started doing football activities, Williams quickly stood out, making waves during the first day of rookie minicamp last month. It continued when mandatory OTAs took place last week, and although training camp will give more of an indication of what Williams can do, these are the kind of positives you want to hear.
Williams is on the cusp of his inaugural NFL campaign, and he’s expected to make a contribution to a Cowboys’ defense coming off of a very productive first season under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, and he’s a perfect segue into several reasons why Williams is in position for an impact rookie season.
Relationship with Dan Quinn
The Cowboys covet their 30 visits before the NFL Draft. So much so, that it’s a safe bet that several of their picks will be from those visits, which was the case in 2022 as cornerback DaRon Bland and linebacker Devin Harper joined Williams in landing in Dallas.
It was during the pre-draft process that Williams developed a connection with Quinn. Quinn worked him out during his pro day at Ole Miss. After the workout, Quinn told Cowboys’ head coach Mike McCarthy about his desire to guide Williams in the NFL.
“Man, I’d really like to coach that guy.’ And that’s a good feeling to have… knowing that if the opportunity comes about to coach him, I think we have a real plan for that,” said Quinn.
When Williams came on his visit with the Cowboys, his relationship with Quinn went to another level, as well as his want to have a star on his helmet.
“When I came here, I told them I wanted to miss my flight on purpose so I wouldn’t have to leave,” Williams said. “It’s just a connection that I can’t explain. With DQ and the other guys, it’s just different.”
Williams has an abundance of talent and he wants to be taught. Quinn wants to teach him, and he’s already gushing over the raw ability he has to work with. That dynamic will be important in the development of Williams.
Willingness to be taught
Williams comes into the NFL with athleticism and speed as his calling cards. However, he didn’t play a lot of football before his college days, meaning his skills still need quite a bit of fine-tuning. Williams has been a sponge since arriving in Dallas, getting knowledge from some of the best in the Cowboys organization.
Charles Haley, who won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys in the 1990s and is a member of the Hall of Fame, has spent time teaching Williams some of the nuances of getting after the quarterback. The elder statesman of the defensive line, DeMarcus Lawrence, has taken extra time to get Williams and his technique on point.
The Cowboys’ biggest draft selection of 2021, linebacker Micah Parsons, has also gotten in on the tutelage of Williams. Just before mandatory minicamp, Williams talked about how Parsons began to school him and what he needed to do to be an effective player in his first season.
“Micah has helped me out,” Williams said. “[He told me] I just need to terrify these guys and open pass rushing lanes, things that I can do. Just start off with speed. Once they get used to your speed, then it’s like a chess match. Now they have to figure out what I am doing.”
His skill set gives Quinn several options
Williams is best-known for rushing the passer from the edge. However, while at Ole Miss, Williams played some 4-tech which required him to battle against guards who are typically bigger and more physical than tackles. With this diverse ability, Quinn can design packages where Williams can slide inside along with possibly Lawrence and let Parsons and Dante Fowler rush from the edge, or maybe Dorance Armstrong.
The edge is where Williams will make the most noise. Dallas has capable guys like the aforementioned Fowler and Armstrong as well as veteran Tarell Basham to pressure the quarterback from the outside, so Williams doesn’t have to come and get 13 sacks like Parsons did last season. Williams can be a part of a rotation and get time to work on his craft more.
Williams can rush from either side, and Quinn will likely have him stand up and get after the quarterback some for the Cowboys in addition to being down in a three-point stance. He can is also versatile enough to play outside linebacker in a traditional 4-3 scheme. Simply put, Quinn has a plethora of ingredients to work with when it comes to Williams.
Feature image via Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports