If experience is any indication, the Cowboys third receiver going into 2012 will undoubtedly be Kevin Ogletree. The way you reacted when reading that is an accurate gauge of the Cowboys current outlook at the position. The fourth-year veteran UDFA from New York City has inspired many things from fans, but confidence is not among them.
Ogletree began his career as a little-known UDFA added to the roster on the explicit recommendation of John Garrett (our TE coach, Jason's brother, and the same guy who recommended John Phillips). Many, including owner Jerry Jones, appeared to adopt the speedy young receiver as a pet cat of sorts. He flashed play-making ability on short receptions and acceptable deep speed. Most of you likely remember him for a decent gain on a quick screen in his rookie campaign.
What happened to Ogletree since then? From 2009 to 2010, a number of things possible detrimental to a young receiver took place. First, Miles Austin exploded into a star receiver. Then, the team drafted Dez Bryant. Finally, Tony Romo went down part-way through the 2010 season, making for a series of events negatively impacting Ogletree's career trajectory. Last year, Ogletree seemed unprepared to step into the role of third receiver, and was quickly pushed aside by the newcomer (and now departed) Laurent Robinson. For someone known as "the Tree," Kevin has been far from firmly rooted.
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Though notably not as a first option, the Cowboys did retain Ogletree this season (after allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent by not tendering him a restricted free agent tender). The move allowed them to save money on his contract, an additional benefit may soon become evident. Having tasted joblessness, Kevin may have finally received the motivation he needs to perform in camp. If he still doesn't impress, then there's no shortage of young talent to fill his shoes.
Receivers coach Jimmy Robinson offered his outlook on the third receiver spot to the Star Telegram:
"We’re hopeful that somebody emerges and steps up and kind of claims that job, and if not, then it’ll be by committee," receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said Saturday after a practice at the Cowboys’ rookie minicamp at Valley Ranch. "Time will tell." . . .
Of Ogletree, entering his fourth year with the Cowboys after making the team as an undrafted free agent, Robinson said, "I'm hopeful that he can. Again, that's an unknown at this point, but he's had a good off-season. All I can say is so far, he's worked extremely hard. He's gotten stronger. He's gotten bigger. So again, time will tell."
Of Coale, the fifth-round pick, Robinson said, "Part of the reason he was drafted is because he was versatile. He’s played outside. He’s played inside. It’s kind of up to him. He’s got to step up and grab that when his opportunities come."
Perhaps more than anywhere else, the receiving corps will be a prime source of story lines come training camp. With an excess of players looking to fill 3-4 open positions on the roster, everyone will be bringing their best to the coaches.
Even more interesting, Robinson said that, if there were no clear winner, the third receiver position could be filled by a combination of players. This means that we could see five receivers getting significant snaps on offense, with the bottom three forming a rotation behind Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to seeing a large contingent of young, athletic receivers being tried by fire. The future of the position could be very bright.
How do you think the receiver position will shake out? What lies in Ogletree's future?