Across the board, the Dallas Cowboys saw a busy year from its Wide Receivers. Some were bad, some were incredible, some lived up to expectations, and some didn't. So, how'd they do overall? Let's dive right in.
To start the year, we had no idea what to expect from this unit. Miles Austin hadn't truly lived up to his contract yet, even though he was still producing quality numbers. Dez Bryant was reeling from reports of domestic abuse aimed towards his mother and looked primed to be the latest Dallas Cowboys 1st round draft bust. The team had also decided to rely upon a myriad of unproved, untested youngsters, headlined by the oft-disappointing Kevin Ogletree.
And then Week 1 came. Miles Austin caught 1 touchdown, Kevin Ogletree caught 2, Dez Bryant looked relatively uncoverable when Romo looked his way, and the Cowboys WRs were off to a hot start. Obviously the big surprise was Ogletree, who became the first fantasy football waiver wire darling of the year with his monster performance. As we all know, he failed to even come close in replicating the performance, but somebody else stepped up a ways down the road. To evaluate the rest of the season, let's look at each players individual year, and hopefully that will lead us to some type of overall grade at the end.
Let's start at the bottom of the WR depth chart. WR Donavon Kemp was a threat to make the opening day roster (or at least the practice squad), but a la Raymond Radway in 2011 the rookie WR went down with an injury in the final days of the preseason. Kemp was placed on IR and we haven't heard a whole lot about him since late August. He'll likely get another chance to earn his way on to the team, but will really need to show some talent to do so. Radway was unable to overcome the same situation this year, as he was cut during training camp.
Moving on, we have practice squader and occasional game-day roster guy Andre Holmes. Holmes made big splashes during training camp and became a pet cat of Jerry Jones. It's not hard to see why. Holmes has magnificent size and tantalizing speed on the outside, measuring 6'4" and running a 4.43 40. He actually made two catches this season, the first coming in week 4 vs. Chicago and the 2nd being against Washington on Thanksgiving. Holmes is a nice guy to have running scout team and, similar to Kemp, will have another chance this offseason to turn heads and earn a spot on the 53 man roster.
Next up is everyone's favorite leprechaun, Cole Beasley. The little guy from SMU stunned players and coaches alike when he simply continued to make plays when given the opportunities. The 5'8" (in high heels), 177 lb (while carrying bricks) WR quickly became a fan favorite with his high energy and obvious likability. Beasley made some plays for this team here and there, and Romo had no hesitation throwing to him. One play that stands out is the London Fletcher INT on Thanksgiving that was being thrown towards Beasley, but there was simply no window to get the ball there because of his size. He finished the year with 15 catches for 155 yards (essentially an off-day for Dez Bryant) and will look to build upon his success going into 2013. He won't be getting taller anytime soon, so it'll be up to him to continue to perfect his route running and build up as much muscle as possible to sustain the NFL hits his body is forced to endure.
Now on to the Tree. 2012 was likely the sad end to Kevin's days in big D. The guy who showed so much flash back in 2009 simply couldn't replicate the same ability, save for one night in early September. That first Giants game was masterful, but now only serves as a sad and distant memory of what could have been. Ogletree saw his time decrease all season. He caught only two TDs after the first game, but ironically recorded the last TD of the season for the Dallas offense in the waning minutes against Washington. He will be remembered around these parts as a disappointment, but we wish him best of luck for some other team next year…just not ours.
If you had Dwanye Harris in your office's "breakout player that no one has ever heard of" pool (what, you guys don't have those?), then you my friend are victorious. Harris was a spark plug guy for this team all season. Whether it be a big catch or a big punt return, Harris delivered in big situations all year. He didn't record a catch until week 10, yet still managed 17 catches for 221 yards and a touchdown. He also managed an impressive 16.1 yards per punt return, good for 2nd in the NFL. He will be looked to as the leading horse for the 3rd WR spot in 2013. If he can provide the same type of spark and big play ability, Harris might finally fill the void left by Laurent Robinson.
The now-number-two-formerly-number-one receiver is Miles Austin. Is that a bad thing? We don't think so. A lot of people get on Miles for not producing enough since signing a nice hefty contract in 2010. The reality is that Miles put up very similar numbers to 2009 and 2010. He would've broken the 1000 yard mark for the 3rd time in 4 years if not for suffering the high ankle sprain in the first quarter of the Washington game. He valiantly tried to fight his way back on to the field, but had no juice or push anymore. His 6 touchdowns are a bit low, but there's only so many to go around. The biggest problem with Miles has always been his health. When on the field, he provides a stable, reliable guy that Tony trusts, and we can't have too many of those. He also takes away some pressure from Dez, allowing him to work out of more 1-on-1 sets. People have talked about sacrificing Miles due to the salary cap, but we feel that'd be a mistake. Look for him to quietly compete for another 1000 yard season in 2013, but whether or not people appreciate it will remain to be seen.
And then there was Dez Bryant….enough said.
But really though. What else can we say about this man-beast-child-superhero? Dez finally elevated his game to superstar status, something we all knew was possible when he was drafted in 2009. A few years worth of growing pains proved more than worth it as Dez proved to be uncoverable the second half of the season. He tied the longest TD streak in franchise history and lived up to the #88 on his jersey, surprisingly without all the drama of the rest of them. And then, when we thought he could do no more, Dez did more. He played through a broken finger that would've made most of the rest of us go crying home to mommy. He ended the season with a whopping 92 catches, 1382 yards, and 12 touchdowns. It's embarrassing for the NFL that he didn't get voted to the Pro Bowl. Hopefully that will keep the chip on this man's shoulder and he can progress even higher into the sky as the next great Dallas Cowboys WR.
So, did I cover them all? I think so. Overall, there were a lot of positive things from this unit in 2012. We saw some dropped passes and some fumbles, but the days of screaming at Roy Williams and T.O crying about not being BFFs with Romo are long gone. This unit is again primed to be full of stud performers in 2013, as long as they can stay healthy. In terms of grade, we had to award them an A-. It may have been helped by a bit of Dez-flation, but that's the effect that one of the top-5 WRs in the world can have. If they made the playoffs it would've been an A. The trajectory is pointing up, and there's no reason to see that changing during this off season.
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