Can a team have too much talent? That's a thought floating around league circles after watching the Cowboys acquire former Pro Bowl receiver Roy Williams at the trade deadline. Williams, who earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2006, was sent to the Cowboys from the Lions in exchange for a first, third and sixth-round selection in the 2009 Draft. In addition, the Cowboys inked the star to a multi-year extension reportedly worth $45 million, including $20 million in guarantees.
Though the price tag for acquiring the star is an expensive one, the loquacious receiver is viewed as one of the most talented players at his position.
"He's a top talent," said an AFC personnel director. "He is big, fast and physical. He has a tremendous amount of athleticism for his size, and is capable of being a dominant player at the position."
Williams, the seventh pick in the 2004 draft, has amassed 262 receptions for 3,884 yards with 29 touchdowns in his five-year career. He enjoyed the best season of his career (82 receptions, 1,310 yards, seven touchdowns) in 2006 on his way to his first Pro Bowl selection. Though Williams' numbers fell from that lofty perch a season ago, he is an upper-echelon receiver who will bring an added dimension to the Cowboys' star-studded lineup.
While Terrell Owens remains the team's No. 1 option in the passing game, Williams gives the Cowboys a dependable complementary player on the opposite side. His combination of size, speed and athleticism makes him an upgrade over current incumbent (Patrick Crayton), and creates another favorable matchup for the Cowboys' passing game. With Owens, Williams and Jason Witten on the field, the team has three players who are capable of exploiting the single coverage that accompanies the eight-man looks defenses use to slow down Pro Bowl running back Marion Barber III. Moreover, Williams gives the Cowboys an effective counter to the two-deep coverage that is used to limit their big play opportunities. Williams' ability to dominate his matchup with the opponents' second-best corner will make defensive coordinators pause before exclusively using double teams on Owens throughout the game. Thus, the move should make life easier on the temperamental superstar.
"He adds another playmaker to their lineup," said an AFC personnel director. "Although he comes in as their third option, his presence will take some of the pressure off Owens and Witten in the passing game."
All scouts, however, aren't ready to proclaim the transaction as a great move for the team.
"You wonder if there are enough balls to go around," said an AFC personnel director. "Owens already chirps about not getting the ball enough, how is he going to react when Williams begins to cut into some of his production."
An NFC personnel director added, "With attitudes and egos that exist in that locker room, I can't see how this move is a good one."
While that sentiment expresses the combustible nature of the Cowboys' locker room, it also touches on Williams' reputation of being a flawed superstar.
"He is a top tier talent without question," said an NFC personnel director. "But there are whispers about his work ethic and attitude."
Regardless, the move to acquire the star is also an attempt to solidify the team's future at the position. With Owens in the midst of his 13th season, the Cowboys are proactively making plans to find his eventual successor, and Williams is a talented replacement to their mercurial star. Though giving up a first-, third- and sixth-round pick for Williams is pricey, the ability to acquire a proven player may be worth the risk when considering the odds of landing a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver in the early stages of the draft.
"This deal is definitely part of the Cowboys' planning for the future," said an NFC personnel director. "Owens is nearing the end of his career, and Williams is former Pro Bowler who is only 26. If he plays up to his potential, he gives them an ideal replacement for Owens down the road."
Such talk of the future ignores the reality that this move was made to sustain the Cowboys' flickering title hopes, and makes the "Super Bowl or Bust" mentality in Dallas more apparent than ever.
"The move smells of desperation," said an AFC personnel director."They have said all along that this team was built to win the title, but they make a major move before the deadline to upgrade the offense. To me, that means they view Williams as the piece needed to push them over the top. So if they don't win it all, the move has to be considered a failure, right?"
Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones is not afraid to take risks field a Super Bowl contender, and his willingness to deal for Williams is the latest example of his daring ways. However, time will tell if the accumulation of talent without regard for team chemistry will result in a championship for the 'Boys.
While rookie sensation Matt Ryan has received kudos for his brilliant performance in his first season, league observers are hailing the emergence of wide receiver Roddy White as one of the keys to the Falcons' success. White, the team's first-round pick in the 2005 draft, has been outstanding this season, and his rapid development over the past two seasons has drawn rave reviews from league officials.
"He is a really good player," said an AFC personnel director."His speed is impressive, and he has learned how to separate from coverage. Although he still drops the easy one occasionally, he has become an impact player in their offense."
After becoming the first Falcon to top the 1,000-yard receiving mark since 1999 a season ago, White has taken his game to an all-pro level in his fourth season. White currently ranks second in the league in receiving yards (566), and his 35 receptions are seventh in the league. With three 100-yard receiving days in the team's first six games, White is on track to surpass his career highs in receptions (83) and receiving yards (1,202) that were established a season ago.
In looking back at White's surprising 2007 season, it should be noted that he played with three different quarterbacks (Joey Harrington, Chris Redman and Bryon Leftwich) while posting the third most receiving yards in the NFC. Thus, it's no surprise that the speedster has been productive with a rookie Matt Ryan at the helm. Although they didn't get off to a great start, the duo has been on fire since White's breakout game against the Chiefs (five receptions for 119 yards and one touchdown) and that performance ignited a sizzling four-game stretch where White hauled in 29 receptions for 453 yards and three touchdowns.
"He has been impressive," said an AFC personnel executive. "We knew that he had the talent and speed to be big-time player in this league, but this year he is simply becoming more reliable."
With his game rounding into form, White has set his sights on moving into the ranks of the elite, and his postgame comments after the Falcons' win over the Packers reflect his burning desire to be considered among the best:
"I feel like I can be an elite receiver in this league, and that is something I want to show every week," White told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Though it may be a bit premature to move White into the ranks of the game's elite, it is not too early to single the speedster out as one of the league's top young receiving prospects.
Kris Jenkins is quietly leading a defensive transformation in New York. Jenkins, a three-time Pro Bowler, is anchoring the middle of the Jets' rebuilt 3-4, and the results have been impressive. The Jets rank third against the run (69.0 yards per game), and have tallied the second-most sacks (18) in the league. Though Calvin Pace joined Jenkins as the Jets' marquee defensive acquisitions, the former Pro Bowler has been singled out as the biggest reason for the unit's dramatic rise.
"Jenkins has been a difference-maker for them," said an AFC personnel director. "He is playing really well, and the guys are feeding off his effort."
Jenkins, an eight-year veteran, has been regarded as one of the league's most talented interior defenders since earning two Pro Bowl berths in his first three seasons. However, the perception of Jenkins' ability began to change after he suffered a series of injuries that kept him sidelined for most of two seasons. Though Jenkins returned to earn his third Pro Bowl berth in 2006, concerns about his weight problems, work habits and attitude eventually led the Panthers to ship the talented star to the Jets for a third-and fifth-round pick.
Bolstered by a change of scenery, and a fat new contract (a five-year extension worth $35 million, with $20 million in guarantees), Jenkins has been a dominant force in the middle of the Jets defense. As the nose tackle in the Jets' 3-4 scheme, Jenkins is commanding double- and triple-teams inside and allowing linebackers David Harris and Eric Barton to roam freely against the run. The results have been staggering as the Jets have only allowed less than three yards per carry and surrendered only one run over 20 yards.
In addition, Jenkins' versatility and pass-rushing skills have given defensive coordinator Bob Sutton the flexibility to run more four-man fronts on passing downs. With Jenkins demanding multiple blockers in pass protection, Shaun Ellis, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas have been able to feast off single blocks in obvious passing situations. Each has tallied four sacks, and the unit's sudden ability to create pressure without blitzing is a testament to Jenkins' impact in the middle.
Many viewed the Jets' decision to acquire Jenkins as an expensive gamble, but the venture has transformed their defense into a unit capable of leading them into the post-season.