Commentary

Cowboys will need to snag third WR

No. 3 a crucial cog with uncertainty surrounding starters, but he's not on roster

Updated: August 6, 2012, 12:24 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

OXNARD, Calif. -- Let's not lie to ourselves as we start the second week of the Dallas Cowboys' training camp.

[+] EnlargeMiles Austin, Dez Bryant
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliDon't expect anyone currently in camp to start opposite Miles Austin or Dez Bryant at wide receiver should either of them miss time.
The Cowboys' third receiver is currently not on the roster. Feel free to blame Dez Bryant and Miles Austin.

We still don't know if Bryant is going to be suspended after getting arrested and charged with a misdemeanor family violence last month. Even if he doesn't, the combustible Bryant is one misdeed away from being popped for multiple games.

Hamstring injuries to both legs last season forced Austin to miss six games. He has already tweaked a hamstring and is expected to miss about a week of practice.

Don't expect Austin to return before the third preseason game, if that.

So here's the deal: Do you really want Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris, Tim Benford, Raymond Radway, Danny Coale or Cole Beasley starting opposite Bryant or Austin for even one regular-season game?

No.

Never.

Not in this lifetime.

Nothing occurred in Sunday's Blue-White scrimmage that should make anyone think the Cowboys won't eventually go outside the roster to ensure their offense isn't compromised if Bryant or Austin are unavailable this season for any reason.

In three seasons, Ogletree has caught 25 passes for 294 yards without a single touchdown, but that's 25 catches and 294 yards more than Holmes, Harris, Benford, Radway, Coale or Beasley have ever caught in an NFL game.

Now, do you understand why the Cowboys have to make a move?

The smart thing is to give this collection of receivers all the practice repetitions and every opportunity to prove they're more than just a collection of guys.

After the final cut, perhaps even a little sooner, the Cowboys will scour the waiver wire and secure either an experienced veteran with ties to head coach Jason Garrett, receivers coach Jimmy Robinson or offensive coordinator Bill Callahan.

[+] EnlargeKevin Ogletree
AP Photo/James D SmithKevin Ogletree has just 25 receptions for 294 yards and no touchdowns in three seasons, but the other third-receiver hopefuls don't have one catch among them.
Or they'll find a younger veteran to add like they did last year, when they signed Laurent Robinson. He caught 54 passes for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns and signed a five-year, $32 million deal with Jacksonville.

So there's no need to panic.

Ogletree is the best of the group, primarily because he has the most experience, the speed and size to play outside, and the feel for running routes to play inside.

And if you talk to Garrett and Jimmy Robinson about Ogletree, they'll tell you he has matured as a player and a person. Ogletree's brother, Calvin, was shot in the head in January and nearly died.

"He spent a lot of time in New York trying to get his brother healthy," Garrett said. "Often times when you have a situation like that in your life maybe it changes your perspective and helps you to understand what you need to do each and every day in the job that you have."

While Austin is out, Ogletree will work with the first team.

"He's a little more determined," said Robinson, "to be someone that we can count on."

Holmes is the player whom Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones want to be a difference-maker because he's 6-foot-4, 223 pounds with good speed.

It's not going to happen this year -- and it has nothing to do with Holmes flunking the team's conditioning test. By all accounts, he's a conscientious person, but we're also talking about a player who starred at Hillsdale College before he signed with Minnesota as an undrafted free agent.

Austin, an undrafted free agent who played college football at Monmouth, is obviously an example of a small-school player who became a Pro Bowl NFL receiver. But he caught only 18 passes in his first three seasons -- none as a rookie.

For the Cowboys to persuade themselves that Holmes can be a difference-maker this season is pure folly.

He's still learning the nuances of the game, such as how to consistently catch the ball at its highest level, which is why Orlando Scandrick knocked an apparent touchdown out of his hands during the scrimmage.

Holmes also dropped an apparent leaping touchdown catch in the back of the end zone. Add to that the difficulties that he has had getting off press coverage against Brandon Carr, and it's hard to see him being a difference-maker on offense this season.

Holmes is hardly alone. The Cowboys are alarmingly thin at receiver.

Jerry wants to make the playoffs this season, and there's no way the Cowboys can do it without adding a veteran receiver before the season starts.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

ALSO SEE