Commentary

Cole Beasley gets back on track

After brief departure from Cowboys, SMU ex emerges as playmaking slot option

Updated: August 24, 2012, 12:40 AM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The summer of Cole Beasley could end with him on the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in the fall.

[+] EnlargeCole Beasley
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellCowboys backup Cole Beasley has fought through personal issues early in camp to become the team's top slot receiver.
He went from an undrafted free-agent wide receiver from SMU to impressing the coaches in offseason practices.

But less than two weeks into training camp, Beasley left the team for personal reasons. The Cowboys gave him 48 hours to reconsider.

He did. Since his return in early August, Beasley went from receiving third-team snaps to becoming the first-team slot receiver.

He left it all out on the field during his seven-catch, 104-yard effort in the second preseason game last week at San Diego in which he threw up.

Beasley's effort doesn't surprise SMU coach June Jones, who worked with Cowboys wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson in Atlanta and talked to him about Beasley before the draft.

"[Beasley] is a role player and he'll catch the ball and he's really smart and he plays in that 20-yard box," Jones said. "He's really, really good. Jimmy understood more than a lot of NFL people. We coached together and he trusted me and he trusted what he sees."

What Robinson and the Cowboys saw was a small, 5-foot-8 receiver considered quarterback-friendly. He finds open spots in zone defenses and makes the catch. His speed allows him to beat linebackers and safeties in space.

In man coverage, he's quick off the line of scrimmage and can make catches on slants. If he has some separation, he can make plays.

That is what the Cowboys want in their receivers, at least the backups -- someone to make plays. As an example, Kevin Ogletree made a leaping catch while taking a hit for a first down. Beasley does the same thing. He was solid in the Cowboys' hurry-up offense against the Chargers.

Before Beasley was able to make a name for himself during Cowboys' practices and two preseason games, he dealt with a personal issue which almost derailed his chances of making the team.

Beasley said the big stage of playing in the NFL didn't scare him. He played at Little Elm (Texas) High School and earned a scholarship to play at SMU. He was an underdog with the Mustangs, so much so that his receivers coach thought he was a walk-on. Beasley fought through that and expected to fight through a family issue that kept him away from the game.

Beasley told Cowboys coach Jason Garrett that his heart wasn't in it. He took some time away and talked to family and friends to find where his heart was.

"It's been a lot different," Beasley said, who wouldn't go into details about the issue. "I found out how much support I really had, all my family. I went back home and talked to them and they're all behind me now. They really helped me out. It's good to be back and focus on football."

Beasley's brief departure raised questions about his commitment to the NFL. His teammates teased him upon his return, something he knew was going to happen. Yet Beasley's production has overshadowed everything else, and he's developed a bond with his teammates.

"I felt a little bit more pressure," he said. "I can't come back and be terrible. I came focused and [to] try and learn the offense, and I had confidence I can make plays. I just came out like I had to do what I had to do. And just get in the slot and make plays."

Beasley said he's not sure if he'll make the team. If you ask the backup receivers -- Dwayne Harris, Tim Benford, Raymond Radway, Andre Holmes and Ogletree -- they say the same thing. They're not sure if they'll make it, either.

What's known is Beasley and Ogletree and Harris have received most of the snaps with the first-team offense, with injuries taking Miles Austin and Dez Bryant out of the lineup.

Right now, Beasley is in good shape with two preseason games remaining.

"You never really know," he said. "You've just got to keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully the coaches will keep me here."

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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