Wide receiver Laurent Robinson was a gift that the Cowboys stumbled upon last year. With a recommendation from Norv Turner, Jason Garrett brought in the former third-round pick. All Robinson did last season was lead the team with 11 touchdowns. He may have been our best wide receiver last year, showing up in many big games. The idea of losing him in free agency loomed over the team heading into the offseason.
I can't blame him or be mad at him for taking the deal he received from the Jaguars. That is the once in a lifetime opportunity to secure your future financially, so I cannot blast the guy for taking the money. Of course I wanted him back in Dallas because he produced immediately for us. He developed a chemistry with Tony Romo in just one season that Roy Williams couldn't do in three years.
Once the other marquee free agent wide receivers were being signed left and right, it was only a matter of time before Robinson received a big offer. If the Cowboys signed him for that much, it would have been a mistake. It is just too much money to invest on a #3 wide receiver. Jerry Jones probably did his best when trying to re-sign him. The numbers didn't add up in our favor to re-sign Robinson. I wish him the best of luck in Jacksonville, except for when he plays the Cowboys.
This Does Create A Hole On The Roster
Arguably Laurent Robinson was our best wide receiver last year and made a lot of big plays for us. Losing Robinson does create a problem at wide receiver.
We do have two of the premier wide receivers in football with Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. The problem is health, both have showed that they have trouble staying on the field for all 16 games. Obviously you cannot be stacked at every position, but most good teams have three legitimate wide receivers on their roster. If Dez or Miles got injured, that would mean as of right now, Dwayne Harris would most likely be our #2 wide receiver.
Losing Robinson creates a major depth problem at wide receiver. The Cowboys struggled to find a #3 wide receiver until they signed Robinson, I just hope we don't go through another couple years of struggling to find the next one.
The Young Guns
Raymond Radway was one of the surprises of the 2011 pre-season. The UDFA from Abilene Christian displayed his athleticism at wide receiver early on last summer. His hard work was paying off and he was most likely a sure thing to make the 53-man roster.
Disaster struck on the last play of the pre-season when Radway went up for a pass. It was one of the nastiest injuries I have ever seen while watching the Cowboys and he broke multiple bones in his leg. That would end his season and he would spend the year on IR. Recent reports suggest he will make a full recovery by training camp and that is outstanding news. If anyone on the roster can step up and fill in the void of Robinson, I believe it will be him.
Dwayne Harris was selected by the Cowboys in the sixth round last year. Standing in at 5-10, 208, he is smaller than the usual wide receivers the team goes after. He spent most of the season on the practice squad and was called up to the 53-man roster towards the end of the season. He reminds me of a faster Patrick Crayton, but Harris is also a better athlete than Crayton ever was. He has the ability to be a productive wide receiver in the NFL, but how soon can that happen?
Andre Holmes is listed at 6'5, and 208 pounds. He ran 4.45 40-yard dash and had a 33.5 inch vertical jump at his pro day. He spent the season on the practice squad after he was cut by the Vikings. Holmes was promoted to the 53-man roster in December because the front office probably feared he would have been poached off their practice squad by another team. The Cowboys love his potential and size, but he is another unproven player.
The lack of experience they have would concern me if the Cowboys decided not to add another wide receiver to the roster. I love their upside, but their inexperience is concerning.
The Cowboys could still look to add a veteran wide receiver in free agency. As of right now, it is not too clear on what their course of action will be. Robinson just signed yesterday, and we are only into day three of free agency. One potential free agent target that I would endorse is Cardinals wide receiver Early Doucet.
The Cowboys were interested in him back in the 2008 NFL Draft. Arizona selected him in the third round that year and Doucet has become a reliable wide receiver for them. When Anquan Boldin was traded to the Ravens in 2010, Doucet took on a larger role in the Cardinals offense. Injuries derailed his potential breakout season, but he came back strong in 2011 when he caught 54 passes for 689 yards and 5 touchdowns.
We don't know how much he will command on the open market, but if the price were right, the Cowboys may be interested in him. At 6-0, 212, he is the perfect type of receiver for the slot. He is a feisty, physical receiver with good speed and quickness. His route running can continue to improve, but it is solid enough to make a living in the slot where you need to be a good route runner.
If the Cowboys can afford to make one more free agent signing, I would endorse going out and getting Doucet.
The Cowboys don't have to spend their first round pick on a wide receiver. Unless Justin Blackmon fell to us at 14, which is unlikely, they can decide to use one of their other picks on the position. One of the benefits the Cowboys will have entering the draft with a need at wide receiver is that this is a very deep class. There will be great values after the first round and you can still find good talent through the late rounds.
Drafting a wide receiver makes the most sense financially. Signing a veteran in free agency may be costly, but drafting a wide receiver will save the team money. It would also give them the advantage of getting a younger and more talented player that they could develop. On the flip side, you run into the inexperience problem mentioned with the young guys above.
Below are some names that should interest the Cowboys. For the most part, I chose prospects that would be a good fit for more of a slot role. For whatever reason, the Cowboys usually stay away from drafting smaller wide receivers with speed. They prefer the taller prospects with size. This may be the time to finally draft a more conventional slot wide receiver. I will begin to go into more detail on wide receiver prospects as the draft approaches.
- Mohamed Sanu - Rutgers
- Joe Adams - Arkansas
- Devon Wylie - Fresno State
- Jarius Wright - Arkansas
- Marvin Jones - Cal
- T.Y. Hilton - Florida International
- Nick Toon - Wisconsin
- Ryan Broyles - Oklahoma
The Importance Of The 3 WR Set
Bob Sturm has a great article that breaks down Jason Garrett's offense. In this article, Sturm details the usage of the personnel sets Garrett runs. It's no secret that he loves the two tight end sets, but one of his base packages is the "S11", the shotgun three wide receiver set.
Garrett ran this base formation on 30 percent of all snaps. When you have three talented wide receivers, it's best to play to your strengths. I would hate to see the Cowboys move away from this package because I think it has the most potential to give us big plays down the field. Romo looks comfortable in the shotgun, and I would look to add a third wide receiver to continue running the three wide receiver set.
Jason Witten is one of the best in the game. Many consider him our third receiving option anyway, but how much longer can we continue to rely on him to keep producing at such a high level? He will be 30 years old when the season starts. He may not be deteriorating to the point where he will be ineffective suddenly, but it is reasonable to expect some sort of drop off soon.
That is where the importance of the third wide receiver comes in. Having a reliable #3 not only provides depth, but it offers you versatility in your offense. Adding another talented wide receiver to the roster will benefit the entire offense.