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Cowboys want safety Roy Williams to hit more, cover less

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -Although it's only training camp, Roy Williams can't help himself when it comes to making big hits.

Seeing Oliver Hoyte catch a pass in his vicinity Monday morning, Williams lowered his shoulders and flattened his teammate - just like he'd done to Miles Austin the day before and to Terry Glenn the day before that.

Ferocious blows are Williams' signature statement. They're a big reason why the Dallas Cowboys gave him a $25.2 million contract extension last summer and why he's been invited to the last four Pro Bowls.

It's certainly not for his coverage skills.

Williams' weakness as a cover guy was exploited more than ever last season. Of the 25 touchdown passes thrown against Dallas, a good chunk came with No. 31 in the area, unable to prevent it.

While Williams contends it was often a case of mistaken identity - "I'm supposed to be doing one thing, but then I try to help out with something and it looks like I'm getting burned" - it may not be a coincidence that new coach Wade Phillips plans to use his hard-hitting safety differently this season.

Williams is going to backpedal less and play close to the line of scrimmage more. Sometimes he'll be blitzing and sometimes he'll be there to make quarterbacks think he's coming.

"I would expect that if I were the other team," Phillips said.

He'll still have some coverage duties, of course, giving him a chance to flatten guys wearing other jerseys. Part of his freedom comes from Dallas adding veteran Ken Hamlin to play free safety, ending last year's tag team of Keith Davis and Pat Watkins.

As Phillips likes to say about all his players, Williams will have a chance to do more of what he does best.

"He can strike a blow," said Phillips, who counts Steve Atwater and Dennis Smith as the "really big-time hitters" that he's coached, with Wes Hopkins also in their class, and Williams poised to join them.

"He's really got a knack and great timing as far as hitting somebody," Phillips said. "Plus, he has no fear. Most of the big-time hitters I've ever been around, they have that mentality."

Williams didn't have a sack last year and has only 6 1/2 over five seasons. But the way hits, and the way he runs now that he's down to his rookie weight of 221 pounds, could cause lots of problems for quarterbacks.

Williams likes the change, but realizes he's not becoming a linebacker. He'll still be used in coverage - and wants to be.

"It's cool to be back down there, but to be an all-around good player you have to be able to do a lot of things," he said. "I just can't be just one-minded about being in the box. You have to be able to cover too. I still have to worry about that and other aspects of the game."

One thing he insists he's not worried about is criticism, most of which has centered on his coverage problems.

"Is it unfair? Yes," he said. "Because sometimes (complainers) really don't know what you are talking about. ... If you have your teammates supporting you, you don't have to worry about what everybody else is saying."

Another criticism last year was that Williams was getting beefy. That can't be said now that he's dropped eight pounds from the start of last season and 25 pounds from his offseason peak. He also met a personal goal of coming in below the target weight of 225 the team set for him.

"I'm flying around, man," he said. "I'm full of joy and a whole bunch of energy. I'm being real."

Quarterbacks, beware.

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