ARLINGTON, Texas — NFL teams expect rookies to contribute, but it’s best when they don’t have to contribute.
The Cowboys found themselves in the latter position Sunday night and rookies Joseph Randle and Terrance Williams came up big – when they had to.
Randle, the fifth round pick out of Oklahoma State, subbed in for an injured DeMarco Murray in the second quarter and produced the Cowboys’ final touchdown in a 31-16 win over the Redskins.
Two plays after Kyle Wilber sacked and forced a fumble by Washington’s Robert Griffin III, Randle scored from a yard out.
Actually, Randle didn’t have much choice in the matter. He was met at the goal line by several Redskins but center, and fellow rookie, Travis Frederick pushed the pile – including Randle – into the end zone.
“The offensive line pushed me in, so I’ve got to give them the credit on that one,” Randle said while laughing and pointing to the ball he kept after scoring his first NFL touchdown. “I told Travis to sign it for me, but he was like, ‘No, man. I can’t do that. I can’t sign your ball.'”
After Murray went out with a sprained left MCL, the emphasis shifted to the passing game. Still, Randle did his part with 11 carries for 17 yards, including a 14-yard gain later in the fourth quarter.
Randle got on the field because backup running back Lance Dunbar was out with an injured hamstring.
“I tried not to make mistakes. I just got in there and tried to do my job,” Randle said. “I’ve been doing a lot of watching. I was just trying to go in there and do the things that I’ve learned.”
Williams has made his share of rookie mistakes, but he’s also produced big plays including catching a 15-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
Quarterback Tony Romo was under heavy pressure when he lofted the ball to Williams in the back corner of the end zone. The touchdown gave Dallas a 21-9 lead.
“Any time that he [Romo] gets in trouble like he did a few times today, I’m just trying to continue to get open,” Williams said.
Williams has scored in back-to-back games after catching an 82-yard TD pass last week against Denver.
Against the Redskins, Williams caught two passes for 27 yards. His work helped make up for the struggles of Miles Austin, who had four targets but no catches in his return from a hamstring injury.
“I pay attention to what Dez [Bryant] and Miles and Jason [Witten] and Tony tell me,” Williams said. “When I come off the practice field or out of the meetings, I focus on getting the small things right so I can have a good game.”
Memories of Williams running a wrong route and fumbling in San Diego are being replaced by his big plays.
“Terrance has done a really nice job,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “He learns from the experience he has, both good and bad, and he really grows. A real tribute to the approach he takes each week.”
Williams was drafted in the third round out of Baylor with the hope of becoming a big-play threat. So far, his development is on track.
“He’s a player that it just breaks his heart to mess up, so to speak,” owner Jerry Jones said. “He’s just continually fighting through that and trying to get better. And you’re seeing that right before our eyes and Romo, our quarterback, seeing him really be the playmaker that we had hoped he’d become like he was at Baylor.”