You may be okay with the young guys at receiver on the roster. You may not be. That's not at all what I'm here to debate. It's not a question, however, that somewhere on some team out there, there are receivers who are more polished and that have already proven that they can get the job done in the NFL.
As a Cowboys fans, for months now, we've heard it all from Chad Ochocinco to Terrell Owens to any other has-been who has absolutely no shot of ever being on the Cowboys roster when they open the season in September.
If you have a concern about the receiver depth on this team; that isn't irrational, but the names that have been thrown out, for the most part, are. There's one guy who I've thought of for a while as a near perfect fit and according to reports, he just hit the trading block.
More after the jump...
The man that I'm talking about is James Jones of the Green Bay packers. The Packers have five wide receivers who would probably be the number one on a team like the Dolphins, especially pre-Ochocinco. Outside of Jones the Packers have two absolute studs in Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, a second-year second round standout in Randall Cobb and Donald Driver who just signed a new deal this offseason. The perception has been that one of the guys could be of a lot more value to another club not named the Packers. Just the other day the Houston Chronicle reported that James Jones was on the trading block and the guy makes perfect since for the Cowboys.
I wrote a post a few weeks before the draft entitled It's Not Where you get a Receiver... but What Kind. I'm not one to grade myself but it received 19 rec's and positive feedback. In that post I wrote about how the Cowboys don't need a short, quick, sure-handed, great-route-running guy who can play in the slot and convert third downs over the middle, because that guy is already on the team when you take apart the game of Miles Austin, Jason Witten, and Dez Bryant as individuals.
To summarize I said that the Cowboys need to find a guy who could closely mimic what Laurent Robinson did here a season ago. Easier said than done. I'll quote myself on what I said made La'Rob so special.
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.
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.
After that, I took a look at some of the number 3 receivers in the most potent passing offenses in the NFL and wrote about how the tall, outside receiver was becoming prominent:
- 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 Super Bowl, 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.
The tall number three who plays outside is trending. The Cowboys could always go with a shorter slot receiver as the number three, but that would put Miles Austin on the outside in three wide receiver sets. A lot of Miles Austin's skill-set is tied into playing the slot in three receiver sets.
Looking at James Jones and the Packers offense, it worked the same way as the Cowboys offense. In three receiver sets the number one (Jennings) would line up in the slot, the number two (Nelson) lined up on the outside as well as the number three (James Jones).
James Jones still has two seasons left on his deal, which would avoid a La'Rob situation where he walks after one year. In each of the two seasons, he would be due a base salary of less than $3 million which is nothing compared to what La'Rob is making with the Jags. He's a five year pro and he just turned 28. He's been playing the exact same role that the Cowboys would be asking him to play for his entire career.
He's been in a system that is predicated on good route running and timing which is what made La'Rob such a favorite for Tony Romo a season ago. If all of that isn't enough the guy is also pretty good and consistent when it comes to playing football.
I'm sorry about the sucky highlights. If I had more time I would've cooked up some much better ones. You probably remember him most from when Mike Jenkins didn't feel like tackling him back in 2010. Considering his age of 28 and the fact that he's been a number three for his entire career, he shouldn't be too much more expensive than a fifth round pick if the Boys were interested. I'm not saying that the Cowboys would or should go after a veteran receiver but if they eventually decide to, nobody makes more sense than James Jones of the Green Bay Packers.