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Kevin Ogletree looks to step in at No. 3

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The question was asked quietly, and the reply was given in the same manner.

Kevin Ogletree, one of the young wide receivers on the Dallas Cowboys' roster, was asked whether he was No. 3 on the depth chart.

"Yeah," Ogletree said this week as the Cowboys prepared for their third preseason game of the summer, against the Minnesota Vikings.

When asked to go deeper with his thoughts, Ogletree remained confident in his response.

"That position is something that's available right now," Ogletree said. "I think if I do what I'm supposed to do and keep working hard, it's not going to be given to me but it's definitely in front of me."

In the past few years, the No. 3 receiver spot has been held by Patrick Crayton, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. At times, all three have moved into a starting role, with Bryant and Austin currently atop the depth chart.

But what the Cowboys need from the No. 3 receiver position isn't someone who can catch 60 to 75 passes a season. With tight end Jason Witten catching nearly 80 to 90 passes, it's the No. 3 receiver who needs to be ready to move in when a starter is injured, which was the case in 2009 when Austin took over for an injured Roy Williams.

The Cowboys don't have veterans among the receiving corp like they have in years past. The vet in the group is Austin, who has started just 25 games as he enters his sixth season but has produced two Pro Bowl selections.

It's up to Austin to mentor young players such as Bryant and Ogletree, who are still learning the game.

Ogletree, however, enters his third season not only seeking more playing time but getting it.

"I don't think he's had a lot of game experience in the time that he's been here," receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said. "He's missed some time due to injury, but Kevin is like all the young guys, he's a work in progress. But he's a talented young man with great natural skills at the receiver position."

Ogletree's claim to fame came in the 2009 season when, after a long chat with team owner Jerry Jones, he got several snaps during a game at New Orleans. He had only two catches for 23 yards that evening, but he was able to show the coaches that he can be relied on to make plays in the passing game.

The biggest concern regarding Ogletree is consistency. He needed to command the playbook, and show he can be a consistent performer in practices and games. Jason Garrett doesn't trust players who can't produce for him in practices.

It's because of those reasons alone that Ogletree didn't get as many snaps as Sam Hurd with the offense.

In the three weeks of training camp practices, Ogletree has played comfortably with the offense. He's always been a good route runner. Former Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said Ogletree reminded him of how Terry Glenn ran routes -- very precise -- and he does have good hands.

Yet issues remain with the little things such as when to recognize to change his route because of what the defense does, when to become aware of where he is on the field when catching passes and getting his footwork down.

"I'm a little bit more comfortable in the offense just from being around it a year longer," he said. "It's really just staying on top of your plays and knowing what to do when you're in there because stuff can get over your head if you're not paying attention."

Saturday night is another chance for Ogletree to pay more attention. Austin appears to be out of Saturday's game with tightness in his hamstring, so here comes Ogletree looking for more playing time.

There are some younger players behind him in sixth-round pick Dwayne Harris and undrafted free agent Raymond Radway, but they haven't pushed him out of his current status on the depth chart. Garrett likes to have competition on the roster to challenge veteran players while grooming younger players for the future. It makes Ogletree study the playbook more, and he said he's following quarterback Tony Romo and Witten around to become a better student of football.

"Being a student of the game is a big part of understanding the game," Ogletree said. "So you got to watch [and] things that will help you play better."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.