"You can’t be inconsistent," Robinson said. "You can’t be up and down. You can’t have a great day, an average day, a poor day then another great day. That’s an 8-8 record, basically."
If you've been reading the camp reports with any regularity, you will have noticed that seemingly every day a different wide receiver makes some some highlight catches. Yesterday, Andre Holmes made an attention-getting grab on a Hail Mary in the endzone; on Friday, Cole Beasley made a scintillating one-handed grab on a low pass; on Thursday Kevin Ogletree and Andre Holmes both had nice TD catches on contested throws, and on and on. But you've also read reports about how the same guys have dropped easy passes on occasion, ran the wrong route or lined up in the wrong spot.
The result is what rabblerousr called the "wide receiver carousel" that churns out new names on a daily basis as Dallas' cadre of young receivers struggles to stack good days on top of each other. After the break, Coach Robinson talks about where the receiver competition stands, and why Kevin Ogletree currently has a slight lead for the No. 3 spot.
You can watch the full interview with coach Robinson by following this link. I have transcribed large sections of the interview below, starting with what Robinson said yesterday about what he wants to see from his future No. 3 guy.
"I want to see a guy who gets open and makes plays when he’s got an opportunity. […] There’s a lot of things that go along with that job, and we’ll see how it pans out, but we’re looking for a guy who can win in a man-to-man situation; get away from people and make things happen; convert third downs."
Asked whether he was confident that the third wide receiver was already on the team, Coach Robinson said he was hopeful that that was the case, but that ultimately the remainder of the preseason would answer that question:
"Um … I don’t know if confident is the right word. I’m hopeful, let me say it that way. I’m hopeful. This preseason is going to tell the tale on that. [...] It’s a competitive situation and a lot of guys who are all kind of there together, so we need someone to step up and away from the crowd."
The one player who has created some separation from the remaining receivers so far is Kevin Ogletree, and the key reason for that appears to be his - wait for it - consistency:
"Kevin is playing more consistently. He’s catching the ball more consistently. He’s had a good offseason. He’s playing a little more confidently. We’re looking for big things out of him, starting on Monday night."
"I’d say slight in the fact he’s been around here for a while," Robinson said when asked whether Ogletree had a a lead in the battle for the No. 3 spot. "He is making some plays in practice. Hopefully, that continues."
Coach Robinson also talked briefly about two other receivers, Raymond Radway and Dwayne Harris, and about how their lack of consistency was holding them back from stepping away from the wide receiver crowd:
"Radway has been a little up and down. He’s made some plays occasionally but hasn’t had a ton of opportunities. […] He’s working hard at it, and he needs to develop a consistency that he hasn’t had in the past."
"Harris is kind of like all those guys. He’s done some really, really good things and he’s done some things that he needs to improve in terms of assignments, he’s not always perfect that way. But really, they’re all in that boat that way. I like Dwayne a lot. He has a lot of toughness, he catches the ball extremely well in traffic, those contested throws."
The emphasis on consistency is not just something that's relevant to the wide receiver position. Jason Garrett made a point about it in yesterday's press conference as well, pointing out that the Cowboys value consistent players over "flash players":
"But ultimately, you don’t win with flash players. You win with guys who do things consistently well. And obviously, the better they are; the more talented they are; if they are consistent, you’re going to get a better player."
"We’ve got a lot of those guys. We’ve got to make sure the guys who are really talented make it consistently, and the guys who are consistent have enough talent. That’s a big part of the evaluations we make."
The competition at wide receiver is far from over. The Cowboys currently have 10 wide receivers battling for three or perhaps four spots. And they also still have four pre-season games to figure out who those guys will be. Chances are it'll be the guys who show the most consistent performance. Jason Garrett uses a baseball analogy to highlight the need for his players to show up and produce in live games, and not just in practice:
"You have to be careful about becoming enamored with the other guy who looks great throwing it on the sidelines or throwing it in the bullpen, but when he climbs up on the mound, he doesn’t get anybody out. There’s a ton of those guys too."
At the end of the day, when consistency of production is valued above draft pedigree, highlight reel plays, measurables, contract status, length of time with the team or any other variables that are being used to push a given player by fans and media alike, players like Kevin Ogletree emerge as the leading candidates. He may not be anybody's favorite; he may not generate a lot of headlines in camp reports for his catches; he doesn't have the underdog story going for him. But he produces. At least he has so far.
As you think about the competition for other roster spots, the same is likely to hold true there. Don't be surprised if the guys getting the most ink and the most headlines are not necessarily the guys who end up on the roster in the end.