Danny Coale is poised to make an impact for Dallas
Laurent Robinson was a really good player for the Cowboys in 2011, and many would say he was their best player last season. He was a rare find, one of the last cuts by the Chargers after training camp, and Dallas was his fourth team in four years. Robinson was tied for fourth in the league in touchdowns with 11, catching a touchdown once every five catches. Sadly the Cowboys were not able to keep him off of the free agent market, and the price to keep him was more than Dallas could afford to pay their third wide receiver, and he is now a Jacksonville Jaguar.
His absence on offense leaves a hole and an obvious question: who will replace Laurent Robinson? He was the second most productive wide receiver, so taking his place will not be easy. His greatest skill was his knowledge of the offense coupled with his ability to be open in a quarterback friendly spot on the field. I don't think the Cowboys have the player on the roster that can replace him, but that does not make him irreplaceable.
Danny Coale is going to always be compared to Robinson--that's what happens when you are drafted at the position the year after a productive player is allowed to leave the team. It doesn't help that he is wearing Robinson's old number, 81. As a player compared to Wes Welker, Coale should be able to replace many of Robinson's reception totals and his quickness can be a similar presence over the middle of the field. Over time Coale is going to catch a lot of balls and convert many crucial third downs, but being a rookie in an NFL offense will mitigate the impact he will have his first year. Fortunately the Cowboys have another player able to run routes and catch passes.
The most simple solution to replacing Robinson is: "Throw to Jason Witten more often." Witten's 2011 reception and yardage totals were his lowest since 2006. He is Tony Romo's security blanket, and can still make a linebacker or safety regret giving him a clean release off of the line of scrimmage. Robinson's absence leaves a number of catches to redistribute; look for Witten to grab the lion's share of them. A duo of Witten and Coale over the middle should either make them both very productive receivers, or open up opportunities for Dez Bryant and Miles Austin on deep routes if the defense focuses on the Coale and Witten.
In a perfect world, one without a salary cap, Dallas would have loved to keep Laurent Robinson--although if they had kept him during an uncapped year, they might have been fined by the league for his contract. Fortunately he was the slot receiver on a potent offense with players ready to make Cowboys fans forget about the Jaguars' newest receiver.