Commentary

Tony Romo throwing to new faces

Young WRs have opportunity to build rapport with QB with top targets injured

Updated: August 21, 2012, 11:26 AM ET
By Todd Archer | ESPNDallas.com

SAN DIEGO -- For those wanting the Dallas Cowboys to go after Plaxico Burress or any other high-profile wide receiver or make some sort of trade -- Green Bay's James Jones seems to be the favorite -- news of Dez Bryant's injury on early Monday afternoon served only as affirmation.

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AP Photo/James D SmithMissing Miles Austin and Dez Bryant isn't ideal, but it allows the Cowboys to see what else they have at receiver for Tony Romo.

Without Bryant and Miles Austin, who is going on his third week of missing practice because of a hamstring strain, Tony Romo's starting wide receivers for most of Monday's practice against the San Diego Chargers were Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris, who took over for Andre Holmes after Holmes' back tightened up.

There is a good chance they will be his starting wide receivers Saturday against the St. Louis Rams at Cowboys Stadium.

Can you magine if this was the week leading up to the Sept. 5 season opener at the New York Giants and having to roll with those guys as the lead wideouts?

Good luck, Romo.

Thankfully, for the Cowboys' sake, they have a little more than two weeks before the Giants game and Bryant was only diagnosed with patella tendinitis.

The remedy is simple: rest.

There's no need for the Cowboys front office to send a parody of Carly Jepsen's "Call Me, Maybe" to any of the agents of the receivers available either on the street or on teams with a number of receivers available for a possible trade.

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The Cowboys know what they have in Bryant, Austin and Jason Witten, whose preseason ended when he suffered a lacerated spleen Aug. 13 at Oakland.

Considering the Cowboys will not play their regulars in the last preseason game, the next time we see Bryant, Austin and Witten on the field will be when the games are for real.

The trio had only a handful of snaps together in training camp before Austin suffered a strained hamstring that the Cowboys insist is not as severe as the ones that kept him out of six games last season.

That's OK.

They've had enough time with Romo.

Garrett Injuries provide opportunity, and guys need to step up.

-- Cowboys coach Jason Garrett

Romo could be blindfolded and still know where Witten will be after years of throwing passes to him. He has close to that kind of feel with Austin. And this summer he and Bryant have increased their on-field rapport, with the 24-yard back-shoulder catch against the Raiders a sign of that improvement.

"Dez has been outstanding," coach Jason Garrett said. "He's been outstanding all through the offseason. He really came back committed to being in the best shape possible. He's practiced really well. I think he's matured in a lot of ways as a receiver. He's a more reliable guy for the quarterbacks. He's always had the ability to make plays, as you know, but when you combine that with the ability to be a consistent guy who can win on a consistent basis and the quarterbacks have a trust level in him, he becomes a complete player at that position."

Bryant's evolution is not yet complete, but this was a good start.

Now the Cowboys can use these absences to find out about some other guys.

"Injuries provide opportunity, and guys need to step up," Garrett said Monday, a refrain heard countless times during the Cowboys' California training camp.

The Cowboys found out about Jay Ratliff in 2007 because of injury. The Cowboys found out about Austin in 2009 because of injury. They found out about Doug Free in 2009 because of injury. They found out about DeMarco Murray last year because of injury.

Now they can find out about Ogletree, Harris, Danny Coale, Holmes, Cole Beasley and anybody else at wide receiver, as well as James Hanna at tight end.

Ogletree is just about ready to sew up the No. 3 wide receiver spot and can put the final stitchings together in the next two weeks. Beasley had 104 yards against the Chargers last Saturday, so let's see if he can do it against the starters versus St. Louis. Harris and Holmes have had moments, too.

Coale missed almost all of the offseason with a stress fracture in his foot and has had about a week of practice. With additional snaps Monday, he had his best practice. Maybe he can lock down a spot.

Undoubtedly, the Cowboys are going to need at least a couple of those guys to make plays during the regular season.

It's better to get them the work now.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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