I was wrong about Kevin Ogletree. If you read my Dallas Cowboys vs. New England Patriots Preview, you will know that I was excited about Laurent Robinson. I argued that if Robinson supplanted Ogletree on the depth chart (which I thought was ineluctable), then Ogletree would be expendable. My logic was that Holley was a valuable special teams contributor, and Harris was their return man, plus he was a rookie, so he would be given time to develop.
Boy, was I wrong: the mothership reports that Dwayne Harris was released yesterday. I presume that he was released to make room for the two OL that were signed (Montrae Holland and Daniel Loper). In case you missed it, the Cowboys were desperate for help with their interior OL once the starting LG, Bill Nagy, was placed on IR (he broke his ankle late in the Patriots game).
The signing of these two OL tell us a few things about the state of the franchise. Obviously, the braintrust is not comfortable with promoting 4th round pick David Arkin to a starting role. If Arkin was going to be the starter, I assume that they would have only needed to sign one new lineman. It also suggests that they are not ready to thrust the undrafted rookie Kowalski (who filled in for Nagy against the Pats)into the full-time starting position either. It also means that Costa will likely stay at Center; I kind of thought they might move Costa to LG and Kowlaski to Center since Kowlaski did a decent job when he was forced to fill in for the injured Costa earlier this season.
Click on the link to read the other consequences of the roster changes.
It also tells us that the Cowboys front office doesn’t think Ogletree is expendable as many fans, including myself, believed him to be. Obviously they still believe that Ogletree is better than Harris. I am a bit shocked by this revelation. It is inconceivable to me that Ogletree has more upside and potential than Harris. But then again, my understanding is obviously out of whack; I would have thought that Jesse Holley would get the axe before Harris. I know that Harris hasn’t recorded a catch yet this season, even with the injuries to Bryant and Austin, but I thought that his stellar performance in the pre-season(remember the 76 yard TD that demonstrated his considerable speed?), coupled with the adequate performances on returns, would have bought him enough time to see how he developed. I guess that is why I am writing about the Cowboys, rather than working for them!
This transaction also raises some questions about the return game. Harris was the full-time kickoff and punt returner. I could be wrong, but I think that the only other players on the roster that have ANY experience returning punts are Terence Newman and Dez Bryant. Given both of their importance to the team as starters, and their recent injury problems, I would be shocked and horrified to see either of them returning punts next week. Ogletree at least has some experience returning kickoffs (14 career returns), but he has almost zero experience returning punts.
A quick perusal of their stats suggests that Harris is a better returner than Ogletree. Ogletree’s longest kickoff return ever is 32 yards. He averaged 18.2 yards per return on 6 returns in 2010, and 20.8 on 8 returns in 2009. He has one career punt return; he fumbled it. Harris returned 3 kicks for a 24.7 yard average (the longest was 32 yards); he has returned 11 punts for a 6.6 yard average, with 0 fumbles.
When it comes to kickoffs, remember that Bryan McCann was also released earlier this year, so it seems like the job belongs to Ogletree for the immediate future. I am not as concerned with kickoffs as I am with punts; the majority of kicks result in touch-backs this year anyway, although it would be nice to have someone who was a reasonable threat to gain some yards on the occasional short kick. It will be interesting to see who is returning punts this week against the Rams.