One of the most pleasant surprises of the Dallas Cowboys 8-8 season and one of the main components of Tony Romo's career year in 2011 was the play of Laurent Robinson.
Robinson broke out, grabbing 54 balls for 858 yards, nearly doubling his career best. He also caught 11 touchdown passes, after grabbing just four in the prior four seasons.
Robinson did some damage early in the season as the slot receiver for the Cowboys. He grabbed seven balls for 116 yards against Detroit on October 2 and had five catches for 103 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles on October 30.
But it was two weeks later, when took over as an outside receiver for an injured Miles Austin that he took off, catching nine touchdowns after week eight.
Thanks to the strength of that performance, Robinson is no longer a member of the Dallas Cowboys organization. He was signed to a 5-year deal by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the offseason, leaving a huge hole in the Cowboys receiving corps.
The Cowboys know that the hole is a huge priority and have already laid the groundwork to find his replacement by taking 11 wide receivers into camp with them this summer. Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are among that list and will undoubtedly hold onto their starting postions, but the third wide receiver slot is up for grabs among the other nine players.
They are Cole Beasley, Tim Benford, Danny Coale, Saalim Hakim, Dwayne Harris, Andre Holmes, Donavan Kemp, Kevin Ogletree and Raymond Radway. From that group the Cowboys slot wide receiver will rise.
Coale may be the leader in the clubhouse for the position coming into camp. He is a rookie out of Virginia Tech; however he was a four year starter in college so he comes in with maturity, plenty of experience and an understanding of an offense.
He was also the only one of the five rookie wide outs selected with an actual draft pick. Coale was the Cowboys fifth round selection this and that alone should give him a leg up.
Coale also fits well as a slot candidate for other reasons. During his four years of college he established himself as a player who is unafraid to take a hit or make a tough catch over the middle. At 6 feet, 201 pounds, Coale isn't a huge body, but he is big and strong enough to make plays and take a hit.
Kemp is the other rookie who has dark horse potential. He was unheralded in college after spending four years at UTEP, and saw his draft stock dinged even further by a hamstring injury he suffered late in the season.
But he has size; 6'1, 194 pounds, athleticism; 4.40 40-yard dash, 37.5 inch vertical; and strength, 16 reps of 225 pounds at his Pro Day, to compete in the NFL.
The question for Kemp is a mental one. Can he learn the offense, and adjust to the game at the NFL level fast enough to put those skills in play on the field.
Among the returning receivers, Harris, Ogletree and Raymond, Ogletree is the obvious candidate for the third spot. The third year player established himself as the fourth wideout for much of last season and though his contribution didn't show up in the stat sheet (seven catches, 96 yards) he is the most familiar with the system.
Raymond is also an interesting case. The second year player has great NFL size at 6'3, 193 pounds, and great NFL speed with a 4.32 40. He was poised to make the Cowboys roster last season as a rookie when he broke his leg on the final play of the preseason.
He's back, he's healthy and he could be in a position to steal the job from everyone with his physical gifts.
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