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Third Receiving Spot In Ogletree’s Hands

Ogletree tries to make a one handed catch against Tennessee's DeMarcus Faggins

Maybe it was the lack of production from Roy Williams. Maybe it was the loss of lightning rod Terrell Owens. Maybe it was the fans looking for a spark or an underdog story. But, whatever the reason, it seemed that at this time two seasons ago, a young wideout by the name of Kevin Ogletree slipped his way into the heart’s of Cowboys fans and became a hopeful hero, a player who could ignite the Cowboys receiving core.

Ogletree was an undrafted rookie who signed out of Virginia. While Ogletree only played three seasons at Virginia, he was quite productive. He totalled 117 receptions for 1,332 yards (11.4 avg.) and 9 touchdowns and passed on his senior season hoping to make it at the next level. In his last season with the Cavaliers he led the team with 58 receptions for 723 yards (12.5 avg.) and 5 touchdowns while also returning 15 kickoffs for 274 yards (18.3 avg.), starting all 12 games.

While Ogletree had ambitions of playing in the NFL, he hit a slight set back when his name wasn’t called in the 2009 NFL Entry Draft. He saw his college teammate, TE Jon Phillips, drafted in the sixth round to the Dallas Cowboys which would end up being a blessing as Phillips became a lobbyist for the Cowboys to bring Ogletree in as a free agent.

Once Ogletree was in camp he turned some heads and endeared himself to the fan base through some flashes of talent during the 2009 preseason and in limited action in the regular season. He was active for 11 games in 2009 and had 7 catches for 96 yards, and even contributed with a 20.8-yard average on 8 kickoff returns. He was only a yard away from scoring his first touchdown in Dallas’ playoff win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Ogletree’s stock was on the rise heading into 2010.

The Cowboys would draft Dez Bryant first overall in 2010 and that sent a message to everyone at the receiver position. It was time for them to step up. While Ogletree was a depth player, the Cowboys were hoping for major strides going into his second season. Unfortunately, that never materialized. Ogletree struggled to get on the active roster in 2010 and then had a season ending toe injury after putting in his best game as a pro against the Philadelphia Eagles in December.

Heading into this offseason, the bar had lowered for Ogletree as people started to doubt his ability to take the next step. However, on July 28th the Cowboys released veteran receiver Roy Williams. Ogletree had his chance. Now thought to be the favorite to grab the third receiver position, Ogletree would need to have a good training camp and parlay that into the preseaon and beyond.

Well, we are two weeks into camp and Ogletree is getting lots of attention. He has impressed coaches and teammates with his consistency and big plays during the camp drills and the scrimmage this past Sunday. But he knows what kind of opportunity there is sitting in front of him and he also knows that it won’t be handed to him. Ogletree will have to work for it, “It’s our time…This team is really excited to bounce back after last year and I know I want to be a big part of it. I’m going to work my butt off to do that,” Ogletree said.

His effort has not gone unnoticed either, “He has the quickness, and the speed, the strength and the route-running ability to when he’s covered by an NFL corner, he can go out and beat them,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s shown that in practice, he’s shown that in games throughout his career in the limited reps that he’s gotten. He still has a long way to go, an understanding of what we’re doing, how to attack defenses, and being a more consistent and dependable player.”

While it has only two weeks so far, Ogletree has taken advantage of his opportunity to turn heads and develop a comfort with his quarterback. While Garrett knows there’s still some room to improve, Ogletree is also aware that he isn’t quite there yet, “It’s a process, Coach Garrett always talks about that, I think this is a big part of the process right here.”

While turning heads in camp is only part of becoming a go to receiver, Roy Williams can attest that if your quarterback isn’t comfortable with you, you will not be a big part of the offence. On Monday, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was asked about his third year receiver and said there is a comfort level, “I feel comfortable with Kev. He’s come a long way. He’s worked hard. He’s in a position that I think will allow him to have some success going forward.

That success will be a direct result of how Ogletree continues to work and learn. While there is not a big name to compete with, the Cowboys do have a lot of young receivers on the roster who are vying for the same spot. Fellow third year man Manny Johnson and this year’s sixth round pick Dwayne Harris are pushing Ogletree. Unknown rookie free agent Raymond Radway is also drawing some attention. Ogletree knows that he has to keep developing and avoid injury if he is to take the next step. That’s something his wide receiver coach Jimmy Robinson believes can happen. “He can run, he’s quick, and he’s smart,” Robinson said. “He understands the position. He’s got tools. He’s got to use those and develop consistency and accountability to where he can be counted on by his teammates and his coaches.”

This is a make it or break it preseason for Ogletree. While he has looked good in camp, he will have a great opportunity to put his development on display this Thursday when the Cowboys take on the Denver Broncos during their preseason kickoff.

Ogletree makes a catch against the Eagles December 12, 2010


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