A Tree Grows In Dallas: Kevin Ogletree

Don't worry Kevin Ogletree, the football can't breathe.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article on the mothership. In the article, it was suggested that Kevin Ogletree was in the lead for the #3 WR job. This was back on August 7th, and I really couldn't understand why people were placing Ogletree into the front of the crowded wide receiver battle.

It's pretty amazing what a few weeks can do to change your mind. Andre Holmes looked pretty good in Oakland, but he followed up that game with a poor performance in San Diego. I love that Holmes is a big target that can catch the football, but he has taken a step back, again.

Holmes may need another season spent in the NFL watching and learning before he can become a useful weapon in our offense. He has the physical qualities needed, but he needs to refine his route running and come away with a better understanding of the offense before he can be counted on to play a large role.

Right now you would have to say that Kevin Ogletree is the front runner to become the #3 WR. Not too long ago, I thought that was kind of ridiculous, but Ogletree may be finally coming into his own.

Is there a tree growing in Dallas? Take the jump to find out...

I was a huge fan of Ogletree in his rookie season of 2009. He managed to make the team as an undrafted free agent and he managed to make a few plays during the regular season. Since then, Ogletree has been one of the most disappointing players on the Dallas Cowboys. He never grew into the wide receiver that many thought he could be, and Ogletree became a frustrating player to watch.

When the Cowboys entered their offseason, I expected to see Kevin Ogletree hit the road. Instead, the Cowboys signed Ogletree to a one-year deal worth $640,000. The move came as a surprise and there was the thought that Ogletree was a bad signing considering that he already had a few years to get his act together.

Now, Kevin Ogletree appears to be finally developing into a reliable NFL wide receiver. Yes, it's only been a few pre-season games and training camp practices, but Ogletree looks like the potential wide receiver we signed as an undrafted free agent from the University of Virginia in 2009.

One of the reasons the Cowboys probably liked Ogletree so much was due to his experience, which is limited, but he has real NFL game experience, and his counterparts do not. Ogletree is also familiar with the offensive system in Dallas, so he also has an advantage over the other young receivers who are still attempting to learn a new offense.

In the same article that I mentioned earlier, head coach Jason Garrett talks about Kevin Ogletree and his experience.

"Kevin’s an experienced player," says Garrett. "He’s always been a guy who has tried to get better as a player. He’s very talented. One of Kevin’s real strengths is that he can play both outside and inside. He has the ability, the speed and the size to play outside, but he also has the feel as a route runner to play inside."

That's one aspect of Ogletree's game that goes unnoticed - he can play inside and outside. He has the quickness and speed to be utilized as a slot wide receiver, but he also has the size to go play on the outside. That is important because if Dez Bryant or Miles Austin go down in the regular season, we need a receiver who can step in and play their role on the offense.

Garrett also talked about another skill that Ogletree possesses - the ability to beat press coverage.

"He has one trait that is really necessary and important for a wide receiver and that’s that he can get away from press coverage," says Garrett. "That trait is really what separates the sheep from the goats. He’s been able to gain separation from defensive backs in press."

We have always known that Kevin Ogletree was a fast wide receiver who has legit sub-4.4 speed, but the organization needed to see him make tough catches in traffic. One area that Ogletree worked on this offseason was to become stronger and add more muscle to his frame, and he does look a little more beefed up than he has in the past.

Ogletree doesn't have many highlight reel catches in his career, but the 35-yard reception he made against the San Diego Chargers last Saturday was a great catch. Ogletree went up and fought for the football, and he made a great reception. Those are the type of catches that show Ogletree is growing as a receiver.

The Cowboys' wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson is always preaching to "attack the football" and that is exactly what Ogletree did on that reception in double coverage. Basically every reception Ogletree has had this pre-season has displayed his will to go and get the football after running precise routes.

Jerry Jones is paying close attention to the wide receiver battle this summer, and Jones was also very pleased with the play of Kevin Ogletree.

"What I liked about Ogletree was, in tight, when it was a collision to get the ball, he made the big catch," Jones said. "One of the criticisms of him is physically he needs to get better when he has the physically contested ball. I think he's shown that with that big catch. We know he's got speed. We know he's got quickness. I thought he made a statement for himself."

The problem is, we have seen Ogletree flash before, so he needs to keep it up. Jason Garrett gave us the definition of a flash player this week in ESPN.com article written by Jean-Jacques Taylor.

"We don't really want flash players -- a guy who can make a great catch or make a sack then we don't see him for 10-12 plays. The objective is consistent performance."

Ogletree is showing us the flash, but so far he is backing it up and staying consistent. His four catches for 60 yards in San Diego were very impressive, but he needs to stay consistent and the job will be his. Consistency is tough to achieve in life, not just in sports, but once you find that ground you can perform at a very high level in the NFL.

Right now, that is what the Cowboys are looking for in a #3 WR, consistency. Whoever wins that job doesn't have to be a Pro Bowl player, but they do need to be consistent and make plays when their number is called.

Tony Romo is starting to finally develop a chemistry with Ogletree in training camp this summer. If you want to be a successful wide receiver in Dallas, then you need to get on the same page with Romo. So far Romo has nothing but praise for his potential #3 WR.

"Kevin has shown flashes for a long time," Romo said. "It's just that he needed to make it each day. He's got to be that guy, he's got to make it that important. And he's done that and he's really come on this offseason and this training camp. I'm glad the production is showing on the field."

Last year we saw Romo become disgusted with Ogletree not knowing where to line up in a game against the Redskins. After that incident, Romo probably had zero faith in throwing the ball to Ogletree. The hard work and growth that Ogletree has shown this summer will go a long way with Tony Romo on-and-off-the-field.

Ogletree is going to receive even more opportunity to show the Dallas Cowboys that he is the #3 WR. Dez Bryant just dodged a major bullet when his MRI came back showing no tear to any ligaments in his knee, but it is doubtful we will see him the rest of the pre-season as he rests his knee. Miles Austin is still nursing his tight hamstring, and there hasn't been too much news on when he will be able to return, but I doubt we see him in any pre-season action.

With injuries to Bryant and Austin, that would place Ogletree as the #1 WR in Dallas. There are still two pre-season games remaining, which is a great opportunity for Ogletree to continue his growth and development as a wide receiver. If Ogletree seizes his opportunity in the next two games, he will lock up the #3 WR job.

There have been signs of the growth that we have wanted to see from Ogletree, but will he continue to impress and win the #3 WR job? It's hard to buy into Ogletree finally becoming a reliable wide receiver after just a few pre-season games, so take it with a grain of salt.

We need to see Ogletree continue to perform at the level he has, and if he does continue to play good football, then we may have found our #3 WR in house.

There might be a tree growing in Dallas after all...

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