In several weeks, the Cowboys will have an opportunity to shape the most competitive roster they have had in several years. The last time they had a chance at fielding a 53-man roster this solid was back in 2008, when several veteran free agent signings (Adam Jones, Zach Thomas, Tank Johnson), along with an extremely successful draft, padded the roster.
The Cowboys are in a similar situation this year, with a good mix of veterans and young talent at almost every position.
One of those positions is wide receiver. Behind the two Pro Bowl-caliber starters is a lengthy mix of unproven, yet intriguing players who will be battling for at least two additional spots at wide receiver. However, depending on how they all perform, I can see the Cowboys going with as many as six wide receivers on the final roster. With that, let’s take a closer look at the depth of the receiving corps.
Since 2009, Ogletree has hung around near the bottom of the receiving depth chart, several times stepping in as the third receiver. Unfortunately for Ogletree, this will be a training camp where “hanging around” is simply not going to secure a spot on the roster. Ogletree’s inconsistent play has frequently caught criticism, and he will need to prove without a shadow of a doubt that he is worthy of a spot behind Dez Bryant and Miles Austin if he is going to stay on the roster this year. Though he is more seasoned on special teams than the other candidates, I believe this is finally the year that Ogletree gets bumped off the roster by younger, hungrier talent.
Since signing with the Cowboys as a rookie free agent, Beasley has made some big waves. He has shown flashes of brilliance as a slot receiver in rookie mini-camp and OTAs, frequently displaying a knack for finding seams in the defense. Though he does not have great size (5-8, 182), the ability he has shown to make tough catches in traffic may separate him from his competition. He frequently draws comparisons to Wes Welker, and what a find he would be if he performs at even half the level of Welker. This is the player I will keep tabs on come training camp.
Harris has had a slow start to his career since being drafted in the midst of the lockout last year. He initially made the 53-man roster, but was cut during the season and re-signed to the practice squad. This year however, with the help of an offseason, Harris has become more familiar with the offense, a facet of his game that was severely lacking in his inaugural year. He showed ability last preseason as a slot receiver, and should show improvement this year with more familiarity of the system.
No player on the Cowboys roster has been hyped more this offseason than Andre Holmes. Like Dwayne Harris, Holmes had little impact last year, spending most of the year on the practice squad. Holmes flashed some ability in minicamp, gaining praise and mention from Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones as a viable option as a #3 receiver. Holmes certainly has the size (6-5, 208) that is coveted in this league, and it will be interesting to see if he can use his physical gifts to put himself at the top of the list for backup receiver.
Coale was drafted in the fifth round this year specifically to compete for the #3 receiver spot. He didn’t have much chance to display his abilities, breaking his foot on the first day of rookie minicamp. Hopes are still high that he will be back in time for training camp, but it obviously depends on how well he has recovered. Coale has excellent hands, speed, and route-running ability, all of which are essential for the role the Cowboys hope he can play. Like Beasley, Coale is also compared to Wes Welker in terms of style, and I think he will make the roster due largely to his fifth round draft status.
Radway showed exceptional upside in training camp and the preseason last year, before breaking his leg on the last play of the last preseason game. It’s safe to say Radway was in position to make the 53-man roster before his injury. Radway is a tall, lanky receiver at 6-3, and his ability to make the 53 will hinge largely on how well he has recovered from his broken leg. I think he could make the roster as a 4th or 5th option.
Hakim will have an extremely hard time making the 53 in an extremely crowded receiving corps battle this year. He does have a few things going for him, however. He is the younger brother of Az-Zahir Hakim, who flourished as Kurt Warner’s 3rd wide receiver in the days of the “Greatest Show on Turf.” Though he has never played a significant amount of football at any level, he possesses blazing speed and the ability to be a special teams contributor. Hakim could be loosely compared to a player on the current roster, Teddy Williams. Both possess speed that cannot be taught, and extreme raw ability to play receiver. Like Williams, Hakim will have to show he can contribute on special teams to have a shot to make the team. If he doesn’t, the Cowboys will certainly try their hardest to sneak him onto the practice squad.