With the Dallas Cowboys OTAs firmly underway, the coaching staff can now start sorting out key positional battles, including the one that could have the most effect on the season, the slot wide receiver.
Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are firmly entrenched as the starters coming into the 2012 campaign, but that third slot is up for grabs among the nine other receivers the Cowboys have on their roster right now.
The Cowboys drafted Danny Coale out of Virginia Tech in the fifth round, and brought in undrafted rookies Cole Beasley, Tim Benford, Saalim Hakim, and Donovan Kemp at wide receiver.
They also have second year players like Raymond Radway, and Andre Holmes on the roster. Both were signed as undrafted free agents. Radway was signed by the Cowboys, but broke his tibia and fibula in a preseason game and spent the rest of the year on injured reserve.
Holmes was signed by the Vikings, but cut in the preseason. The Cowboys picked him up and he spent 2011 as a practice squad player in Dallas. Both guys are big bodies who can make plays over the middle but lack the speed to really break a game open.
The Cowboys other returnees who will compete for the third wide-out slot are third year player Dwayne Harris and fourth year man Kevin Ogletree. Ogletree and Harris should be somewhat familiar to Cowboys fans as they have both played limited minutes for the team.
Harris was a kick and punt returner at points last season in his first NFL action and Ogletree has 25 catches for 294 yards in 31 over his three years with the team.
Quarterback Tony Romo knows how important the third wide receiver can be, and he says he is hoping someone will seize the opportunity.
We want somebody to come in and grab that spot, Romo said during the first week of OTAs. Guys have got to work their butt off. They've got to develop a rapport with me and they've got to know the offense. When they do that, they'll have a great chance, because we've got some guys who have some ability in this room.
Laurent Robinson held down the slot for the Cowboys last year but he parlayed his 54 catches for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns into a five-year $32 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason.
The Cowboys and Tony Romo like big wide receivers. From Michael Irvin; to Terrell Owens; to their current wideouts Bryant and Austin, Dallas has always liked receivers with length.
This, plus his familiarity with the offense, probably gives Ogletree the leg up right now. He has been in the offense for three seasons; he and Romo know each other though they haven't connected much in a game.
The other candidate is probably Coale. The 6-foot, 200-pound, Virginia Tech product finished his college career ranked second in Virgina Tech history in both receptions and receiving yards.
The Cowboys thought enough of him to spend one of their relatively few picks in the draft possibly because he does project so well as a slot receiver.
Coale is agile more than speedy, ranking well among receivers in the 3-cone and 60 yard shuttle drills at the NFL combine. Combined with Coales size and toughness he has all the ingredients to be an effective slot in the NFL.