This is the fourth installment of a series of articles evaluating the Dallas Cowboys current roster in anticipation of the April draft. This evaluation deals with the WR position.
The Cowboys have seven wide receivers on the current roster (including the practice squad).
Starters - Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn
Let the fun begin. When discussing the Dallas Cowboys' receivers, one must always start with Mr. Popcorn, Terrell Owens. Signed last year in one of the most controversial signings in Cowboys history, Owens' first year in Dallas only added fuel to the fire. I'll skip re-hashing last season's off-the-field incidents which, depending on your view, were either a cancer for the team or just a circus sideshow. When discussing Owens' on-the-field performance, there's still a good/bad dichotomy that follows Owens everywhere. He led the league in TD receptions with 13, but equally talked about was his leading the league in number of drops. Owens possesses most of the physical skills you want in a receiver such as speed, size and the ability to separate from defenders. But his hands have always been mediocre. Once he does catch the ball he's very dangerous in the open field. The Cowboys have until June to pay his contract bonus and keep him for another year and owner Jerry Jones has already emphatically stated that he will be on the team in 2007. New coach Wade Phillips indicated he will treat Owens as a member of the family, reversing course with respect to Bill Parcells' arm-length treatment.
On the opposite side is a receiver who once had a controversial image but has largely left that behind. Terry Glenn has been one of the best pickups the Cowboys have made in the past few years and can be counted on to stretch the defense and will catch almost anything thrown his way. Originally thought of as a "Parcells Guy" signing, he has proven that he's still one of the better receivers in the league and is a major contributor to the Cowboys success on offense. Glenn has also beaten the durability issue that dogged him early in his career.
The issue with Glenn and Owens - besides Owens' antics off the field - is that both players are reaching the age when receivers in the NFL tend to decline in production. In fact, both are already beating Father Time with their production and the Cowboys have to be concerned with that aspect.
Reserves - Patrick Crayton, Sam Hurd, Miles Austin, Jamica Rector Jerheme Urban
Patrick Crayton holds down the #3 spot in the Cowboys receiver rotation and is a valuable compliment to the main starters. A converted small-college QB Crayton has very good hands and has the knack for catching the ball on 3rd down. Underrated by most fans, Crayton is one of the better 3rd receivers in the league and one day may prove to be a solid #2 receiver. The Cowboys tendered the RFA a contract that provides compensation of a 2nd round pick if another team chooses to sign him. Crayton should play a significant role in the Cowboys offense against this season.
Sam Hurd exploded onto the scene for the Cowboys in the 2006 training camp where his hands proved to be equal to any receiver on the team. Coming out of nowhere, he made the team and actually started a game when Terry Glenn was out with an injury. Hurd shows a lot of promise as a solid starting receiver one day and is smart enough to digest the role of every receiver position in the playbook. He does lack the top-end speed you'd like in a receiver so he may be the classic #2 receiver.
Miles Austin was a raw rookie from a small college who managed to make the team out of training camp. His size is ideal and has enough speed to be a big-time receiver. The Cowboys are hoping that with a little bit of experience he could turn into a solid threat at the receiver position for years to come. After not seeing the field for the early part of the season he was inserted as the kick returner when RB Tyson Thompson was injured and excelled in that role. Austin has a lot of upside potential.
Jamaica Rector had a very productive training camp and preseason, but has yet to crack the rotation at receiver. Jerheme Urban is a practice squad candidate only.
With the age of Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, the Cowboys might be considering drafting a WR early. With plenty of talent at the position in this year's draft, the Cowboys may be presented with a player that is too good to pass up in the first couple of rounds.