I am going to risk being redundant by addressing the Cowboys’ third receiver situation that was discussed extensively all over the internet last week.
Miles Austin Monmouth (NJ)
Cole Beasley SMU
Tim Benford Tennessee Tech
Dez Bryant Oklahoma State
Danny Coale Virginia Tech
Saalim Hakim Tarleton State
Dwayne Harris East Carolina
Andre Holmes Hillsdale
Donavan Kemp UTEP
David Little Midwestern State
Kevin Ogletree Virginia
Raymond Radway Abilene Christian
On the above list of receivers currently on the Cowboys’ roster, and the schools they played for, what do many of them have in common?
With the exception of Dez Bryant, they are all late round draft picks, or undrafted free agents. And most of them are from small schools, with the exception of Dez Bryant, Danny Coale, Cole Beasley and Kevin Ogletree. Of the larger schools these four receivers came from, I would consider only Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State to be in the top tier of Division 1 schools.
So, what does that mean? It means that we have a lot of receivers that are not ready for prime time. A receiver will typically go to a small university because they were not perceived to have the talent to compete at a higher level. Typically the smaller school will not have coaching that is up to par with the bigger schools and they have a lower level of competition .
As a result, the athlete that comes into the NFL from a top flight Division 1 program will be more prepared. That being said, even with the superior athletic ability that Dez possesses, it has taken two years of extensive playing time to finally get to the point that he appears to know what he is doing out there.
Now I’m not saying that all receivers that come from small schools are bums, just that it takes a lot more work for them to become an NFL caliber receiver. And sometimes you do end up with a real gem, even with the double whammy of coming from a small school and being undrafted, such as Austin.
But look how long it took him to break into the starting lineup, it was 2009, his fourth season in the NFL. And Austin has a lot of physical talent. So how does a player that has all of these things going against him, including being less physically gifted, ever break into an NFL lineup?
It takes hard work and dedication. There have been players that were not the most talented that became very good receivers by focusing on what they do have going for them in order to become the best they can be. They worked on running precise routes and never letting the ball get away from them once it touched their hands. In other words, they were able to carve out a niche as a possession receiver.
Now let’s address the three candidates for third receiver that came from Division 1 schools. Even though the University of Virginia is not necessarily in the top tier of Division 1 schools, the fact that Ogletree was recruited to play there suggests he has more ability than the small school guys. But there is definitely more to it than that.
Ogletree was the third receiver by default last year and let his job be taken away by Laurent Robinson, who wasn’t even with the team at the start of the season. Now we are hearing that he has focus and dedication going into this season that was lacking in the past. So far though, it does not appear he has done anything in training camp to separate himself from the other guys.
It makes my point that if you are an undrafted free agent, you don’t make into the game as even the third receiver on a consistent basis without the work ethic to overcome your weaknesses.
It has been reported that the Cowboys originally signed Ogletree because they fell in love with the potential they saw when they worked him out. But haven’t we been down that road before with Roy Williams and Martellus Bennett? Potential can only take you so far in the NFL.
OK, on to the next big school guy, Cole Beasley. Again, SMU is not in the top tier either, but it appears that Cole, upon returning from his one day absence, has the dedication and focus to make this team. His quickness and size can both be an asset as a slot receiver, but I don’t see him as the third receiver this year, an injury away from being one of the two starters.
Of this group, the receiver that would seem to have the best shot, based on pedigree anyway, is Danny Coale. Danny came from a top tier Division 1 school and was an accomplished receiver at the college level. I see him as one of those guys that made himself a good receiver by working hard and running precise routes.
Unfortunately, he broke his foot during rookie camp and we are just now in a position to see if he can make a difference. It is not likely that he will catapult himself into the third receiver position at this late date.
As I said before, I would be very happy to see one of these guys seize the opportunity that is right there in front of them, but I have my doubts.
What to look for in tonight’s game: With Austin out once again, after tweaking a hamstring, there should be a lot of opportunity for these third receiver candidates to show us what they can do. Unfortunately Danny Coale will likely not be one of them, since they are just now easing him back into practice.
See if these receivers bring the ball in, rather than drop it, when targeted. See if it looks like they are where the quarterback expects them to be when the ball comes their way, all factors in determining whether they can be trusted in a game that counts.
If the Cowboys don’t end up with someone on the roster that steps up to seize the third receiver position and they don’t sign a veteran, expect to see more passing plays out of a two tight end set this season.