Commentary

Laurent Robinson's exit leaves void

Cowboys still have Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, but WR depth is a concern

Updated: April 20, 2012, 12:51 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

With Laurent Robinson signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Wednesday, the Dallas Cowboys now have some questions regarding their ceiving corps.

Who replaces him?

What about the young players? Is a veteran receiver needed?

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant, Miles Austin
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireThe Cowboys still have a talented starting duo in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, but the depth behind them is a question mark with the departure of Laurent Robinson.

It's funny how some forget the starters are Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.

Did you forget the 143-yard game Austin had in Week 2 at San Francisco?

And while Bryant didn't have a 100-yard receiving game in 2011, he picked up 928 yards while battling through an early-season thigh injury and had several games in which he was shut out in the second half.

Robinson took advantage of the coverage Austin and Bryant received to pick up 11 touchdown receptions. The Cowboys wanted Robinson to return, but the financial market made it difficult for the Cowboys to give him the type of deal he received from the Jags.

Moving forward, the depth at wide receiver is a concern, but the Cowboys believe they have some young players ready to fill the void.

Raymond Radway was the star of training camp until a severe leg injury in the preseason finale at Miami ended his season.

Dwayne Harris has potential and showed the team he might be a factor on returns later in the season.

Andre Holmes was promoted late in the season, and the Cowboys like his speed and praised his work on the scout team during the year.

Coach Jason Garrett even mentioned Kevin Ogletree (we thought it was a slip of the tongue) as someone with upside, but it appears he won't be in Dallas in 2012. Ogletree visited the New York Giants on Thursday.

The Cowboys also didn't rule out signing a veteran free agent (there are some out there), but more than anything, the belief in receivers coach Jimmy Robinson's abilities to develop the young receivers on the roster will be important in 2012.

Now to the mailbag.

Q: I think the Cowboys should move up in the draft and get Trent Richardson from Alabama. He's bigger and might be better than Emmitt Smith. -- Joe (Dallas)

A: Joe, the mailbag is off to a slow start. Not going to happen.

Q: The Cowboys have improved the secondary by signing Brandon Carr and Brodney Pool. Will they use the 14th pick in the draft for a pass rusher or another offensive lineman? -- Leonard Gittens (Riverdale, Md.)

A: The best outside linebacker in the draft, Courtney Upshaw, reminds the Cowboys of Anthony Spencer. They're not going there again. When it comes to the offensive line, the Cowboys should lean toward David DeCastro.

Q: Calvin, what do you think about Tramain Thomas, the safety from Arkansas? Do you think Jerry Jones would be interested in using a fourth- or fifth-round pick on him for depth at safety? I think he could be a guy who could eventually develop into a future starter. He'd definitely help out on special teams. Thoughts? -- Glenn Guillory (Baytown, Texas)

A: Thomas wasn't invited to the combine but had an impressive pro day when he was clocked at 4.51 in the 40-yard dash and had a 38.5-inch vertical jump, according to NFL Draft Scout. He is more of a sixth- to seventh-round selection. Of course, if he's getting drafted that late, he's a special teams guy. He's more of a free safety that could help some teams, including the Cowboys.

Q: With a full offseason and no lockout, this could be a huge year for Dez Bryant. He could live up to the expectations the team has for him. If it is important to him to be a great player, I would hope he is watching film, learning the playbook and running routes with one singular mindset: be the best. This kid can be like Andre Johnson. Aside from the Miami nightclub incident, there has been no talk of Bryant, until the restructuring of his contract. I know the team wants him to succeed in a big way, but since his deal is more cap friendly, could they possibly be looking to deal him to move up in the first round? What's the word on Dez? -- Kurt (Long Beach, Calif.)

A: Other than an incident at a nightclub in Miami two weeks into the offseason, Dez Bryant has been a mouse. He's playing basketball and working out. Maturity is the biggest thing with Bryant. He's a tremendous talent that got better in the late stages of the 2011 season. The Cowboys value his talent, and opposing defenses try to stop him nearly every time he runs down the field. He should have a much better season, but he nearly got 1,000 yards last year while playing hurt and getting shut out of a few games in the second half. Year 3 for Bryant should be a big one.

Q: What do you think the chances of Mike Jenkins getting a contract extension this season are? Good corners are hard to find in this league and it would seem foolish to let the best corner on this team walk. Are they just too cautious due to his injury season? He showed a lot of heart last season playing through the lingering injuries he had. -- William (Anchorage, Alaska)

A: I don't think Jenkins will get a new contract right now. However, he was the Cowboys' most consistent corner last year. He played with a bad shoulder in the second half of the year. Jenkins needs to make more plays on the ball, but he doesn't get beat that often and still displays good speed. If he plays well this upcoming season, I can see the Cowboys extending him. Adding Brandon Carr should take some pressure off him.

Q: Hello, I was wondering what your opinion is on Tony Romo's play this past season? What are the areas they are focusing on and what free agents are they looking to sign? -- Tom (Glen Burnie, Md.)

A: Romo had a fantastic season. He had a career-high quarterback rating (102.5), 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. It's clear he is an elite quarterback, but the biggest issue for Romo is leading his team to a deep playoff run. He needs to do that more than anything else. The team isn't worried about the future with him because they expect to extend his contract at some point. As far as free agents go, I'm sure you've checked out ESPNDallas.com for what the Cowboys have done.

Q: How would you grade Jason Garrett so far on a scale from 1-to-10, and why? -- Ruben Cardona (San Marcos, Texas)

A: Garrett missed the playoffs this season, cost his team the Arizona game and should take the heat for the regular-season finale when his team got down 21-0 to the New York Giants. Garrett does some good things. He convinced the front office to go with younger players, he wants to create competition at all positions and he challenges his players. He is accountable to them, and that's important. I would say he gets a 6 from me for now.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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