Dallas Cowboys wide receiver roster evaluation.
Starter: Terrell Owens – Really, does anything else need to be said about T.O. as a wide receiver? He’s simply one of the best in the game and one of the best to ever play the game. He’s our most dynamic offensive threat and we need him to be the explosive offense that we were last year. Enough about his on-the-field capabilities.
I want to take a moment to discuss the off-the-field transformation of T.O. since he’s been in Dallas. By all appearances T.O. has really taken to the stewardship of Wade Phillips. His behavior has become such a non-issue that we can now treat him just like any other player. And his emotional speech defending Tony Romo after the playoff disaster shows that he really likes and cares for Romo and has declared him ‘his QB’ and his leader on this team. That kind of support is surely appreciated around the locker room. He’s found a home at Valley Ranch.
But...why is there always a but...the status of T.O.’s contract could possibly test those good vibrations. Jerry Jones has already said that they will pick up T.O.’s roster bonus for this year. The question is will the T.O. camp start pushing for an extension. This is the last year of the three-year contract he originally signed. Star players who are reaching a certain age usually don’t like to play under a one-year contract. T.O.’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is notorious for playing the hard-line in getting contract extensions. At some point, the Cowboys organization may be faced with the prospect of a push for an extension before the season starts and how they handle it will be a tricky situation. I don’t have the answer, but the Cowboys could probably extend Owens for another couple of years without much worry of his physical decline. Anything beyond that could be reaching dicey territory for a WR, but if any receiver can keep going into his late 30’s, Owens would be that guy.
Starter: Patrick Crayton – The Cowboys recently re-signed Crayton to a four-year deal so he will be here for a while. Crayton was forced into the starting lineup after the injury to Terry Glenn and for the most part Crayton turned in a solid season. Even though he was the #2 WR, he was the #3 option in the offense behind T.O. and Jason Witten. Still, Crayton had 50 catches, 697 yards and 7 TD’s, which are solid numbers for his place in the pecking order. He’s not a speedster and doesn’t force teams to respect both sides of the field equally and that results in coverages rolling-over to T.O.’s side. In a twist of fate, Crayton is usually recognized as a guy with excellent hands but his lack of hands in the playoff game will leave a lasting impression on Cowboy fans.
Crayton is a solid #2 WR but an excellent #3. The Cowboys could benefit from a more dynamic, play-making WR opposite T.O. I’m not sure the Cowboys have a WR on the roster that could fill that role and may have to go outside the organization or use the draft if they want to find one.
Terry Glenn – I love Terry Glenn, he was everything and more that we wanted out of a WR. Unfortunately, his injury may prevent him from playing next year or possibly ever again. If he could return and be the old Terry Glenn then the Cowboys wouldn’t have a need at WR, but I don’t believe that will happen. The Cowboys can’t count on Glenn in the future and need to take steps to replace him.
Sam Hurd – Hurd has great hands and an excellent work-ethic. He’s taken to learning his craft by seeking out the mentoring of T.O. and when given opportunities to play he has served the Cowboys well. He doesn’t have the speed and elusiveness to play the dynamic receiver the Cowboys may be seeking but can surely contribute as a complementary receiver. He also can step on the field as an emergency starter. His best attributes are his hands and his attitude and is a valued reserve for the Cowboys.
Miles Austin – Austin is still somewhat of an enigma. Physically he seems to have all the tools you’d want in a WR. He has size and speed and can catch the ball. But so far he hasn’t been able to translate those skills into a leading role in the Cowboys offense. Perhaps his route-running ability has yet to reach the level needed to play significant minutes in the offense. I would say that the Cowboys really need to push Austin over the offseason to find his role in the offense. Of course he’s an important player on special teams but the Cowboys need to know if he’ll ever be more than that.
Isaiah Stanback – This kid has all the physical skills for a WR, and not just an ordinary receiver, but a dynamic one. When the Cowboys drafted him they knew the first year would be a washout because of his injury and his need to learn the WR position on an NFL level. So the expectations would be that 2008 would be the year to find out just how much of that physical potential could translate to on-the-field protection. He was so raw that the Cowboys had to start with teaching him the proper stance to use and have built up from that point. The two big question marks that I have that I hope will be answered in training camp is how much has his route-running improved and how good are his hands. If he can master those skills then the Cowboys possibly have a playmaker already on the roster. If not, he’ll be a project for a while and could be a draft-pick-project that backfires.
Mike Jefferson – In training camp before this season, Jefferson looked the part. He had decent size and could get himself open in practices. Unfortunately, the guy was allergic to catching the football and that’s not exactly what you’re looking for out of a WR. If he could fix that problem, he has potential.