It is so close you can almost taste it. The first contingent of Dallas Cowboys will arrive on Wednesday (which fact will likely be repeated in every post you read here until then just in case you missed it before). The position battles are about to begin for real.
This year, there is something interesting happening at almost every roster position. But the job that is the most wide open is the wide receiver position. The Cowboys will need five or six on the final roster, plus will likely want to have one or two on the practice squad. There are two players who are definitely on the team - and a whole lot of maybes behind them.
Right now Dallas has eleven wide receivers on the 90-man training camp roster, and only Miles Austin and Dez Bryant can be assured of still having a place when the cuts are made to 53. And there is some concern over a possible suspension for Bryant, but that may be less likely now that his mother Angela has signed an affidavit of non-prosecution, which means that she no longer wishes to press charges. This does not clear up the case against Dez, because in Texas, the State actually files the charges, not the victim. However, without a cooperative victim to testify, the odds of successfully prosecuting a family violence/assault case like this fall dramatically. Without serious injury or some other clear evidence, like a surveillance video, this does not look like a good case. And prosecutors do not go after obvious losing cases, so this may all be dismissed shortly. Then we can quit talking about it for a while and focus on football.
A look at all the incumbents, contenders and pretenders after the jump.
Here in handy chart form (handy for me, at least, because I can recycle this for post after post) is a list of all the Cowboys players trying to make the team as a wide receiver, along with some comments on each and my take on where they stand right now.
|Miles Austin||Now the unquestioned number one receiver. With the unfortunate distractions for Bryant, the team is looking to Austin to provide not only skill as a receiver, but stability as a player.||Clearly #1 on the roster|
|Dez Bryant||Up until his arrest, this was looking to be the season he fulfilled his immense promise. Now, he needs to prove to the team and everyone else that he is serious about his career and focused on his play. The fact that his mother, as many expected, is seeking to drop the charges, may be helpful. At least a suspension looks less likely.||# 1A, with a chance to move up|
|Coming out of camp, he seemed to be the leader for the third wide receiver position, based on performance. That, plus his size, make him a fairly safe bet to wind up with a roster slot.||Highly probable|
|I'm not saying you-know-what this time. Still hobbled by his foot injury, Coale will have to wait a bit longer to prove that he is, indeed, always open. However, it is likely the Cowboys will find a way to keep him without risking exposure on the practice squad||Almost certain to be either on the roster or PUP|
|The third wide receiver position should have been, logically, his to lose. But the feel coming out of the offseason practices was that he has not done much to prove his case. He needs a better camp than some others to make the team, because the eyes on him will be extra critical.||Chances may be fading for KO.|
|This could be an excellent chance for him to make a move. He has experience, albeit very limited, and could pass Ogletree. Kick or punt return skills may be the make or break issue for him.||Could be moving up.|
|He impressed almost everyone in camp. There is skepticism about his durability against NFL size defenders. But he could be one of the great stories if he can make it. He may need the team to keep six receivers, though. But if someone stumbles, this kid may just take a spot away from them.||Has a shot, but something of an outside one.|
|It just looks like he has not come back all the way from his shattered leg, which is really no surprise. I am not expecting to see him on the roster, but would like to see him on IR or the practice squad to give him another year.||Three seconds away from a slot last year. He many never get closer.|
|Everyone raved about his speed. No one likes to talk about his drops. Unless he makes phenomenal strides in camp, he is just not ready for prime time.||Practice squad is his best bet.|
|He could jump up in camp and become another Cole Beasley. Unfortunately, the team doesn't need two of them. The move would probably come too late.||Another possibility for the PS.|
|Donavon Kemp||Remember all the talk you heard about him in OTAs and minicamp? No? My point exactly.||Looks like a camp body.|
|Veteran WR||The recent uncertainty about Dez and Coale's broken foot aside, this was a likely option all along. No rush for the team, because the current crop may contain the answers - but if not, the team will try to beat the odds and duplicate their luck last year.||Good chance this happens, unless the young guns shine.|
On the subject of a veteran receiver, word is out that the Cowboys are looking, according to this "whisper" from Pro Football Weekly:
The Cowboys are said to be keeping their eyes open for receivers. The Dez Bryant incident had no effect on this; the team had planned to look for WR help before he was arrested. With the injury to Danny Coale - the fifth-round rookie suffered a stress fracture in his left foot in late May that required surgery- and no clear front-runner for the third WR position, it's possible that the team will add help from the waiver wire at some point during the preseason or after. Remember, Laurent Robinson and his 11 TDs were added last season prior to Week Two. If the right vested veteran comes along, the Cowboys could make a similar move early this season.
So not only are all the players outside of Miles and Dez competing against each other, they are also competing against every wide receiver with a little bit left in the tank that is on the streets or likely to wind up there by September. This is going to be an exciting competition to watch. And in the end, there may be only two or three of those other names still with the team come the first game against the New York Giants.