Young receivers need to grow up faster

September, 30, 2011
9/30/11
9:05
AM ET


IRVING -- One of the major story lines this week is the play of the Cowboys' young wide receivers.

It seems, Dez Bryant, Kevin Ogletree and when he's in there Jesse Holley don't know where to lineup or where to go when the ball is snapped.

After they break the huddle, you see quarterback Tony Romo telling one of the receivers he's not in the right spot. The Cowboys were forced to call a timeout vs. Washington last week on a fourth down because there was miscommunication between the receivers and the quarterback. The Cowboys were going to go for it, but decided to punt instead.

On an interception thrown by Romo, Ogletree stopped running in the middle of the route leading to the pass to be picked off. The issues just don't rely with the young players, against the Jets, Miles Austin ran to the corner of the end zone and Romo threw a backshoulder fade at the goalline leading to an incompletion.

"Sometimes they know, and sometimes they don't know," wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said. "It's a little bit of everything. I think sometimes we're trying to get guys in the right spots and we sometimes change guys a little bit in midstream to get the right guy we want running a particular route and sometimes it doesn't always get communicated. That's not necessarily the players fault. It sometimes, the coaches fault, sometimes it's my fault. It's a work in progress for all of us. We've all, including myself, have to do a better job, myself at the top of the list, believe me."

Austin has been fantastic this season. He's playing through a hamstring injury, that will keep him out until the Week 6 game at New England. Austin leads the Cowboys with four touchdown receptions, three coming in the Week 2 victory over San Francisco. Of Austin's 14 catches, 11 have been for a first down, which is second on the team to Jason Witten's 12.

It's clear the Cowboys miss Austin's ability to make plays and his knowledge of the offense.

"Anytime you don't have your best receiver out there playing you miss him because he's kinda of the guy that everybody looks to make the plays," Robinson said. "And he certainly is the guy that made the plays in the first two ball games when he was in there."

Robinson said you can't worry about not having Austin because you have to focus on Bryant, Ogletree, Holley, Robinson and rookie Dwayne Harris, who has yet to catch a pass in a NFL game. Bryant is battling through a thigh bruise that forced him to miss the 49ers game, but he played Monday vs. the Redskins.

Romo believes in the young receivers and stressed Ogletree's abilities after Thursday's practice. Yet, it's hard to ignore the confusion of the receivers when they break the huddle sometimes.

"In their defense, sometimes they switch positions," Romo said. "They're not playing the Z or the X. Then all of a sudden your top two guys are out and they have to shuffle them around a little. It's not always as cut and dry that you're at that position all week and boom, all of a sudden, someone else who has been playing has a hammy and you have to go there and now that formation you haven't heard in awhile, are you inside on the bunch or outside. It's not as simple as it sounds."

Robinson, in his first season, after coaching in Green Bay from 2006-to-2010, said the young receivers have to improve.

"We're a work in progress," Robinson said. "I will put it that way. We got a long way to go. We're doing some good things at times, we're not doing it consistently enough, so like I said, we got work to do. I think we are making improvement. It needs to come faster. They're young guys and they're trying and they're doing the best they can, they're working hard, they're into it. They care about it. it's important to them, but we're young and inexperience and we've got a ways to go yet, but we're getting there, but we got to grow up fast."
Calvin Watkins covers the Houston Rockets and the NBA for ESPN.com. He joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers as well as colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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