Friday, June 4, 2010
Austin on Ogletree: 'He just has it'
By Tim MacMahon
IRVING, Texas -- Miles Austin falls back on his high school French to explain why he's so fond of fellow Cowboys undrafted receiver Kevin Ogletree.
"He's just got that je ne sais quoi," Austin said. "You know, that special something you can't put your finger on. Whether it's swag, whatever you want to call it, he just has it."
Ogletree possesses some pretty impressive tangible qualities, as well. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett recognized in last year's rookie minicamp that Ogletree, a player Garrett's brother, John, recruited to Virginia and strongly recommended to the Cowboys, had the speed, quickness, feel for route running and hands to make it in the NFL.
A little more than a year later, Ogletree's goal is to gain the complete confidence of the coaching staff.
Ogletree, who caught seven passes for 96 yards in a limited role as a rookie, has been able to operate under the media radar this offseason. His story certainly isn't as sexy as Austin's contract status on the heels of his ascension to Pro Bowler, Roy Williams' effort to avoid being an all-time trade bust, the Dez Bryant drama or Patrick Crayton's absence.
Ogletree is just a guy trying to quietly follow in the footsteps of his friend Austin, arriving at Valley Ranch with a low five-figure signing bonus and working his way up the depth chart.
"He's been through every single thing I'm going through now," said Ogletree, who frequently hangs out with Austin away from the practice facility. "He tells me how things are going to be and actually shows me the way by doing it. He's been exactly where I was, trying to get some playing time, trying to get the coaches' trust. He shows me the work ethic, how hard you've got to work to get there."
Austin said that, in the end, Ogletree eventually will have to help himself.
"What I can do and try to do is show him the right way to go about things," Austin said. "Hopefully, he can put it all together. There's always work to be done, but if he keeps working and keeps improving, the sky's the limit."
Ogletree is already ahead of his buddy's pace. Austin didn't record a reception until his second season, when he had five catches.
Ogletree's development, almost as much as drafting Bryant in the first round, ultimately could make Crayton expendable. Ogletree's focus is on proving that he's capable of doing everything the Cowboys ask of a receiver.
"I made a little bit of a contribution last year, helped us out," Ogletree said. "Now I'm trying to do more, learn more, be more valuable, more trustworthy and be in the game a lot.
"The trust has a lot to do with how much you play in the game. Gaining their confidence is the big thing. I've got confidence in my own game. I know I can play and make plays. It's just being consistent and doing it every time."
Ogletree describes his rookie role as "pretty minute," even though his playing time significantly increased late in the season. The Cowboys created specific personnel packages to feature what he did best, which primarily meant catching quick screens and scooting upfield.
Ogletree took advantage of his opportunities. He caught every ball thrown his way except for one, and that one was a poor throw. He picked up 71 of his 96 yards after the catch.
And, as Garrett pointed out this week, Ogletree made some significant plays in big games. His 17-yard gain on the Cowboys' final touchdown drive in their stunning win over the New Orleans Saints comes to mind, with him pitter-patting his feet inbounds after running an out route. So do his two catches for 38 yards in the road win over the Philadelphia Eagles, a pair of plays that came on third-and-long to extend scoring drives.
"He's a guy that can certainly use that as a steppingstone," Garrett said. "He's going about it the right way."
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones warned in February that Ogletree could find himself off the roster if he didn't work hard this offseason. Months later, Jones is gushing about a guy who appears to be another undrafted gem.
"I see a really focused player that is being called upon to play every position out there," Jones said. "They are asking him to do everything there is at receiver -- Slot, X, Y -- and that is impressive. Boy, is he up to the challenge.
"He's having to concentrate and having to work. After his first about 120 days here, there was no question about his speed, his quickness, his athletic ability and his instincts. He's got it, but if he'll carry it through and focus and be more consistent ... then he's got a chance to be a real player."
Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.