IRVING, Texas — Terrance Williams dropped passes and ran bad routes early in his first training camp with the Dallas Cowboys.
The rookie receiver recovered from his slow start to be the No. 3 guy behind Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, only to have a good game in San Diego spoiled by a fumble that ended all hopes for a comeback two weeks ago.
Williams responded again, this time right away. He had a career day in last week’s 51-48 loss to Denver, catching an 82-yard touchdown — his first career score — and finishing with four catches for 151 yards.
“A good play, a bad play, just keep looking forward to the next play and try not to keep making mistakes,” the former Dallas high school player said of what he’s learned his few months in the NFL. “Just keep building off the good plays I’m having.”
Williams was a third-round pick out of Baylor, and notable because he was the extra selection Dallas picked up when trading down in the first round and getting center Travis Frederick.
The swap with San Francisco was criticized and scrutinized, causing owner and general manager Jerry Jones to point to Williams as proof the value of the deal was better than pundits thought.
So naturally, the questions intensified when Williams looked lost early in camp in California.
Williams quietly kept at it, improved noticeably within a couple of weeks and ultimately made several obscure California standouts at receiver turn out as nothing more than good camp stories.
“I think it’s a product of that work, being confident in himself and not getting down on himself,” Frederick said. “It would be real easy for him to say maybe something bad happened so I’m going to stop.”
The worst thing so far for Williams was the fumble against the Chargers, when he stretched for the goal line and exposed the ball so that Crezdon Butler could easily knock it out with less than three minutes remaining.
Dallas was down 30-21, so the Cowboys had work to do even with a touchdown. But that wasn’t much of a consolation for Williams, who buried his face in a towel on the bench.
“It was just more of an effort play,” Williams said. “Nothing too crazy. From here on out, I’m just going to get down and live for another play.”
Williams led the nation with 1,832 yards receiving and had 12 touchdowns at Baylor in 2012. A year earlier, he caught 11 TDs with Robert Griffin III as his quarterback. They will be on opposite sidelines when the Redskins visit the Cowboys on Sunday night.
The receiver says it was easy in the Baylor days because he could use the same moves and run the same routes repeatedly with the same results. It didn’t take him long to figure out that won’t work in the NFL.
“I figured that it would be hard but not as hard as it is now,” he said. “The first time you beat somebody, they’ll pick it up and you have to keep switching and using different techniques.”
The surge by Williams coincided with a hamstring injury that sidelined Austin for two games. Austin returned to practice Wednesday, meaning he should be ready to go against the Redskins.
It’s hard to tell what that means for Williams. But it’s hard to imagine his opportunities going away after coach Jason Garrett watched him get Dallas back in the Denver game by catching Romo’s deep throw, pulling out of the arms of Denver’s Tony Carter and easily outrunning everybody for the 82-yard score.
“I think how he’s playing with more confidence shows up anywhere,” Garrett said. “He beats defenders. He catches the ball and makes contested catches. I thought it was a really good job by him this week coming back from last week’s ballgame.”
And coming back from a slow start in California.
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