In the advent of the 2011 season, the Dallas Cowboys picked up Laurent Robinson, a castoff from the Falcons, Rams, and Chargers. With his 54 receptions, 858 yards, and a team high 11 touchdowns, “Lala” Robinson became the embodiment of Jason Garrett’s “churn the roster” philosophy. However his five-year, $32.5 million contract was too much for the Cowboys to give for a third receiver, so the front office let him sign with Jacksonville.
Now we’re back to where we were in the off-season leading to 2011: we’re wondering who will be our third wide receiver.
The third wide receiver is a significant position in the Garrett offense, as Bob Sturm noted Garrett’s preference for the S11 formation. Check that out. Out of about a thousand snaps, a third of them were from the shotgun with three wide.
Now, being the third wide receiver doesn’t mean you’re necessarily the third receiving target. Since 2004, Jason Witten has been among the top three in receiving yards. Realistically, as the Cowboys’ third wide out, all he needs to do is snag about 35 balls and rack up 450 yards.
That’s what Patrick Crayton did. He was also a reliable third wide receiver because he knew the offense and he had a knack for where to go on a Romo jailbreak. In 2010, we really didn’t have that dimension to our offense. In 2011, before Robinson’s emergence, Holley and Bryant gave us some surprises against the 49ers and Redskins respectively. But who’s going to step up and be that third wide receiver?
Kevin Ogletree’s stats have actually improved, but he’s stagnated after a rookie season wherein he caught a key third down grab against the Saints and jacked up the Eagles’ Victor Harris on a kickoff in the wild card playoff. Yeah, Ogletree has been retained, but he could find himself on the waiver wire if he doesn’t make strides in training camp.
Jesse Holley is a great character guy, but he simply doesn’t have the speed or quickness to be our number three. I’m all in favor of keeping him because he’s the type of man you want in your locker room. But he’s not got what it takes to be a number three in the mold of a Crayton or Robinson.
Andre Holmes is a fascinating prospect at 6’5”, 208 pounds. Here’s a guy cut from the Vikings and signed to our practice squad last season. Then, we promote him to the 53-man roster near the end of the season so other teams can’t raid him. He’s got the size that makes him a viable red zone target or jump ball specialist. We’ll just have to see how he does in camp.
Ray Radway is another prospect who may have answered our questions at third wide out if he hadn’t broken his leg with three seconds to go in the 2011 preseason. Because 88 and 86 look similar when you’re still watching TV in standard definition, I thought that was Dez Bryant making some of those impressive catches last preseason. If Radway has a great recovery and grasps the playbook, there could be our answer.
Then we’ve got Dwayne Harris, the Cowboys’ 2011 sixth-rounder. He’ll probably stay on the team due to his punt and kickoff abilities, but it would be nice if he could gain some smarts in this playbook and use his speed as a viable third option.
It’s fairly certain we won’t go to free agency. So will we draft a third wide out? How high are we willing to draft?
Personally, I say we do what we did when we found Laurent Robinson: churn the roster.