There are many intriguing roster battles at Cowboys camp this year.
When teams look at rookie prospects, one of the first things they look at is whether the player meets the physical prototype expected from the position. Bill Parcells explained the rationale for this quite succinctly: For every position, there is a certain combination of physical measurables that has proven successful in the NFL, and deviating from this success model doesn't have high chances of success.
But don't tell that to Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley, who measures in at 5-8 and weighs 177 pounds. He may not have the physical measurables teams routinely look for in their wide receivers, but he does have one trait that teams covet: he keeps making plays. And a big reason for that appears to be his attitude. "In my heart, I think I'm the biggest guy out there," he told the Star-Telegram's Jimmy Burch yesterday.
But while the story of a small guy with a big heart has all the trappings of a Hallmark Channel movie, heart alone is not what enables guys to consistently make plays at the NFL level. In our camp coverage, both rabblerousr and I have repeatedly marveled at Cole's knack for finding the open space, or what I called his 'spatial awareness': He always seems to have a clear understanding of where each defender is, even the guys behind him, and this ability allows him to get separation, be open and make plays.
Beasley was a four-year starter at SMU, and his experience in the Mustang's run-and-shoot offense helped him hone his skill for finding that open spot, as he explained in an interview at rookie minicamp in June.
Knowing how to read defenses is really [important]. So you know where everybody is supposed to be at, and even if you don’t see it, you know where the hole is at.
You’ve got to know right when you turn around how to react when it is close and move into open spots.
I got pretty good at that in college.
It's that ability to find the open spot that has helped him stand out in camp, and now has him taking snaps with the first team on occasion. And with that ability, the Cowboys may have found what an article on Grantland.com last year called a "space player":
In recent years, the NFL has seen a dramatic rise in the number and quality of skill players who do their damage not just by moving the pile or outrunning defenders, but also by working the flats and soft spots on the football field. These naturally gifted players need just a little bit of open territory to operate, and when they get it they incinerate defenses. They operate in the area between the short dive up the middle and the long bomb down the sideline. They are "space players."
As such, Beasley could add a unique element to the Cowboys' passing game. In Beasley, the Cowboys could potentially add a dynamic receiver who'll be able to gain large chunks of yardage in space as he exploits the creases between defenders and capitalizes on one-on-one situations against guys unable to match his quickness.
The Cowboys still have a long way to go before they announce their 53-man roster. But despite missing two days of camp with thoughts of leaving football altogether, it looks like Beasley may already have a leg up in the wide receiver position. And with reports emerging that he'll likely take the first punts against the Raiders, Beasley sounded confident in a post-practice interview yesterday:
"I’m starting to get a few reps with the 1’s. I feel like I’ve been doing pretty good," Beasley said. "I’ve still got some things I need to get better at. So I’m just working every day."
And while his height continues to be a constant topic in every interview, it's not something that's an issue for Beasley, who continues to fight for a roster spot, just like everybody else:
"In my heart, I think I’m the biggest guy out there. I feel like I’m just one of the guys out there competing for a spot, like everyone else."
In his summary of yesterday's practice, rabblerousr writes that Cole Beasley is solidifying his position in the battle for a roster spot:
Cole Beasley once again showed quickness, hands and an uncanny knack for getting open. The result was another big bushel of catches, including one scintillating one-handed grab on a low pass.
Like all other rookies fighting for a roster spot, the upcoming
exhibition preseason games will be a key determinant of who makes the final roster. If Beasley continues making plays in those games, he'll be an early roster lock.