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Cowboys Offense: Don't Sleep on Crayton

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Even with the subtraction of Terrell Owens, much has been made about the Cowboys’ impressive arsenal of offensive weaponry. We all know about the three-headed rushing attack of Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice. We speak glowingly about the tight end tandem of Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett, which may indeed be the league’s finest. Roy Williams and Miles Austin are often among the reasons for optimism amongst Cowboy fans. Still, lost in the shuffle is one guy who has been a solid contributor his entire Cowboy career. How has Patrick Crayton become the forgotten man (at least from a fan's perspective) on the Cowboy offense?

The Cowboys recently began organized team activities. When the Cowboys offense took the field, they did so with Crayton in the starting lineup, opposite Roy Williams. Miles Austin’s upside is through the roof, but isn’t this at least Crayton’s job to lose? He has at least earned that much hasn’t he?

Wade Phillips thinks so:

"I wouldn’t count Patrick Crayton out of anything," Phillips added. "He has a knack for making plays and does run well after catching the ball." (Phillips also referred to Crayton as a "top-notch receiver")

Minus a pair of crucial miscues in the Cowboys’ 2007 playoff loss to the New York Giants, Patrick Crayton has done everything asked of him, and for the most part done it all pretty well. In his only full season as a true #2, Crayton posted 50 receptions for 697 yards and found pay-dirt seven times. Not outstanding numbers under normal circumstances, but being the #2 wide receiver in Dallas essentially means that you are the #3 receiving option. When the tight end hauls in 96 balls as Witten did in 2007, 50 catches from your #2 wide receiver isn’t half bad. In his career, Crayton has twice (2006 and 2008) posted 500 or more yards as the #3 wideout (in other words the #4 receiving option).

Whether he starts or not, when the Cowboys employ a 3-wide look, Crayton will be in the slot where he is at his best. Too much is made of the notion of having a speed demon in the slot. Great top-end speed from your slot guy is a nice luxury, but not a necessity. Playing the slot is about short-area quickness, understanding of coverage, finding the open area, being shifty, and being sure-handed in traffic. Using that criteria, you can pretty much grab Crayton’s report card and check straight down the "Pass" column. Also, for a guy who is supposed to be slow, Crayton still somehow manages to sneak over the top on occasion.

Jason Witten is and probably always will be Tony Romo’s safety blanket, but it is feasible to imagine Crayton also being a guy who Romo leans on in crunch time. Crayton still has the best hands on the team, and seems to know how to find the sticks. In a league where consistency is paramount, it is hard to imagine how a known commodity like Crayton has been so often undervalued by fans and members of the media. Mixed in with all of the stars in Dallas, it is easy to lose track of Patrick Crayton. He will never be mentioned amongst the elite, but in my opinion Patrick Crayton has accomplished quite a bit for a seventh- round converted quarterback from Northwestern Oklahoma State.