Laurent Robinson's gone. He's not coming back. Maybe he'll come back in a year or two when Jacksonville dumps his giant contract after realizing that Blaine Gabbert is not Tony Romo, when they realize that Laurent's production was almost entirely based on a quarterback - receiver relationship and familiarity with a specific offense.
You could debate all day whether or not the Jaguars franchise is better for giving Laurent Robinson a 5 year $32.5 million deal, but no one can debate that the Cowboys offense is worse for the loss. It's never a good thing to lose a guy who had more than twice as many touchdowns (11) than your entire rushing attack (5).
Since the Cowboys let Robinson walk and they haven't signed any free agent wide receivers, they pretty much stand exactly where they did the day they released Roy Williams a season ago. That's without considering the development of the players already on the roster.
At this point, it looks like the Cowboys are either going to draft a receiver to be the three or pick their favorite guy on the current roster. What really matters is that the Cowboys end up with a receiver that fits where the real whole in the offense is.
It's a common fan perception that the Cowboys need to find a Wes Welker-type route-running little dude with good hands who works underneath and can go across the middle and pick up a third and five. That guy would theoretically be the number three receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. While that's always a good guy to have on your team, that's not at all what the third receiver should be on this particular team.
You see, that guy is already on the team in an array of players. Jason Witten and Miles Austin are two of the better receivers in the league when it comes to picking up third and fives, it's not debated that Witten, Austin, and Dez Bryant all have good hands, Demarco Murray, Felix Jones, and Witten are all very good receivers underneath, and I challenge you to find a 6'3" receiver in the NFL that runs better intermediate routes than Miles Austin. He plays so low and his quick feet and strong legs make him about as good in the slot as he is on the outside. Also, Dez and Miles are pretty much fearless over the middle because both are among the strongest receivers in the league. I'd go as far as to say 'freakishly' strong.
The real challenge is replacing, stride-for-stride, exactly what Laurent Robinson brought to this offense. La'Rob (I'll be calling him that for the remainder of this post) almost never played in the slot. He almost exclusively saw his snaps as the opposite receiver of Dez in two receiver sets on the right while Miles was hurt, or as the opposite of Dez in three receiver sets while Miles played the slot. His real strength was being able to separate from defensive backs down the field and in the end-zone from the outside position. His height and strength were suited for running routes from the the outside.
Preview of La'Rob as a Jag
His consistency and knowledge of the offense allowed him to carry the number two receiver spot whenever Dez or Miles got hurt. It's key to have a guy like that next year because at this point in Dez's and Miles' careers, every time they grab at their leg the first thought that pops into your head is, "four weeks." If not "out" for four weeks, then "four weeks until he's 100%." Tony Romo can make a pretty sweet living throwing to just Miles, Dez, Witten, and Murray out of the back-field, but if any of them goes down outside of Murray, I'm really unsure of what's behind them.
Maybe above all, La'Rob was able to create match-up nightmares. If Miles Austin would've stayed healthy and had been able to take advantage of being covered by safeties and nickel backs, it would have been ugly for opposing defenses. I'm sure the boys would've put up more than 13 against Arizona. Things would have been different.
Anyways, the tall number three wide receiver that only plays on the outside can be found in some of the league's most prolific passing offenses:
- You have James Jones of the Packers who was the third leading wide receiver behind Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. He only played on the outside last year. Standing at 6-1, he totaled 38 catches for 635 yards and 7 touchdowns. Nelson and Donald Driver were the slot guys.
- Robert Meachem of the Saints was the third leading wide receiver on the Saints behind Marques Colston and Lance Moore. At 6-2 He only played on the outside. He had 40 catches for 620 yards and 6 touchdowns. That's with Jimmy Graham taking away 99 catches and 1300 yards.
- Titus Young, a rookie for the Lions, stands 6-0 and was the third leading wide receiver behind Megatron and Nate Burleson. He only played outside and had 48 catches for 601 yards and 6 touchdowns. All three teams that these receivers played on passed for over 5000 yards before you figure in yardage lost from sacks.
- When Bill Callahan, the Cowboys new offensive coordinator, was the head coach/ offensive coordinator for the potent 2002 Raiders who went to the Superbowl, he had a receiver who followed the model. Jerry Porter was the third receiver behind Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. Porter standing at 6-2 only played outside and had 51 catches for 688 yards and 9 touchdowns. In Callahan's system that year, the 36 year-old Rich Gannon had nearly 4700 passing yards in the league's best offense. The idea worked for Rich Gannon who was on the tail-end of his career. Maybe it could work Tony Romo? Actually, that was already proven last year with La'Rob.
It's important to have a guy who can beat an upper echelon corner like Corey Webster, Aqib Talib, Brent Grimes, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, Charles Tillman, or a Joe Haden (all are 2012 opponents of the Cowboys) at least four or five times a game. Otherwise your three receiver sets are not as effective and the defense can double-up on a specific guy.
The cowboys have high picks in every round and a late fourth. Generally fans would hope that the Cowboys would draft a receiver in the middle rounds but I wouldn't be entirely opposed to them spending a two on a guy that they really like. If the Boys do their research on a physical specimen like Stephen Hill (6'4" 4.35 forty) or a big guy like Alshon Jeffery and they fill like he's worth the selection at 45 and he's still sitting there, why not pull the trigger on a guy who could pick up right where La'Rob left off?
Here's my logic; everyone is screaming for the best player available. At 45, if Hill falls and Jeffery hasn't been drafted then they're probably going to be two of the most physically gifted players on the board. You could reach on a player of greater need but that usually end up as a bench player who doesn't see the field much.
Last season, the Packers had pretty big holes in their defense. Still, they spent their two on the BPA in Randall Cobb even though they already had four wide-outs who could be the number one receiver on several teams. They understood that the game was evolving and that an overwhelming offense is the way to go. They started 13-0 but I'd advocate that if they didn't draft Cobb they would have started 0-1. Cobb had two momentum swinging TD's in the Packers opening day 8 point win over the Saints.
If you were to snag either one of these dudes you'd have your big outside threat and you'd be set at receiver for at least the next four years before contracts start expiring. If you choose to go with a receiver later, that's fine too. This draft is filled with a deep crop of big, fast receivers who could fill in nicely for La'Rob.
On the team
There are receivers on this current roster who the staff and front office really like. In particular, everyone seems to get all excited when you bring up Andre Holmes, Raymond Radway and Dwayne Harris. I like what Dwayne Harris brings to the slot but he's never going to develop into a guy who can stretch the field and cause match-up nightmares on the outside. While I think he has a future, I'm not going to go into much depth on him. Instead I want to focus on Radway and Holmes. Both went undrafted and both will have a shot at becoming the number three.
I will say this: We're very comfortable with the young players we have. Andre Holmes, (Raymond) Radway, (Dwayne) Harris, those are guys who have a bright future with us. - Jerry Jones
All offseason, when asked about the departure of Robinson, who signed with Jacksonville, the coaches and front-office, including Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones, have raved about their excitement in Andre Holmes - Nick Eatman of DallasCowboys.com
The team is happy with what they have in Andre Holmes, Raymond Radway and Dwayne Harris - SportsDayDFW on the question of "Who are Cowboys going to go after as a third WR?"
Andre Holmes #15
6' 4 1/2", 210lbs, 4.53 forty, second year
I'll start with Holmes because the coaches and team executives usually start with him as their favorite. Holmes never saw the field but he was added to the active roster for the final four games of last year after impressing on the practice squad. You've never seen him play because he spent camp in Minnesota. There's not much research you can do on a guy like Holmes. He was a great division two receiver and has a fantastic height advantage. When he makes catches with his 34" arms, he looks just like Randy Moss. His speed isn't very comparable but Holmes prides himself on using those long arms to reach out and snatch the ball from defensive backs.
It's very important to me that the coaches like him. As fans, we aren't able to see the practices so we pretty much have to trust the coaches' word. Most importantly, he fits the mold of the receiver that I described earlier. Trust me, when you see him in camp next year, you're going to immediately fall in love with his size. Scouting reports are scarce so I picked the one from the most reputable site.
Elite height. Adequate speed. Extremely productive against his level of competition; knew how to use his size to his advantage. Weaknesses: Hasn't faced top competition; wasn't tested by cornerbacks with anything close to his size/speed combination. Speed is adequate, but nothing special. Needs to bulk up; even at his size he'll get pushed around at the next level if he doesn't get stronger. Comments: Holmes is an intriguing small school sleeper. He lacks the truly elite size/speed combo to ensure a smooth transition to the NFL, but definitely could develop into a quality receiver in a few years. - YardBarker scouting report on Andre Holmes
Of course I had to put a video together. It's not much. It has his combine workout, an interview, a few college plays, and a catch from training camp with the Vikings. Finding video on this guy was like pulling teeth from a baby who just started teething. Still, you won't find anything close to it on YouTube.
Raymond Radway #86
6'3", 192lbs, 4.41 forty, second year
Raymond Radway breaking his leg in the final seconds of the fourth preseason game last year might have been the best thing for the Cowboys. The final 53-man roster was already crowded with four running backs, four tight ends, and five corners. Chances are, Radway would've been cut and promptly signed by someone like the Jaguars before the Boys got a chance to add him to the practice squad.
True story: Last year, I went down to San Antonio to watch the Cowboys during training camp. This was before any preseason games. I remember complaining that Allan Ball kept getting torched by some undrafted rookie. At the time I was more focused on Ball's ineptitude as a football player and all I knew about the receiver is that he wore number 86. That guy was Ray Radway. Radway went on to be one of the stars of training camp, highlighted by a preseason touchdown and long kick return.
The guy is so gifted but didn't start playing the game until college. His size/speed ratio is comparable to that of a Jacoby Jones of Houston and that's who he reminds me of. If he were a pitcher I'd tell you that he has great "stuff."
The 6'3 Radway used his long legs to become a national outdoor champion in the 400 meters at the Division II level. In fact, the four-time All American in track and field proved to be a natural compliment to star wideout Edmund Gates while in Abilene. He has loads of talent, but needs to refine his game to get significant looks this postseason. - Draftnasty.com
I made this video for him last year, pardon the logo, it's from an old site:
In the end, it's always better to be able to develop a raw potential guy than to have to rely on high draft picks to produce contributors.
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