Kevin Ogletree took the NFL world by storm on Wednesday night, posting a stat line (8 REC, 114 YDS, 2 TDS) that left Cowboys fans with little regret over losing Laurent Robinson to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
For the time being, Ogletree's one-year, $640,000 deal looks much more efficient than the five-year, $32 million contract that Robinson landed in free agency.
Key phrase: for the time being.
The biggest question resulting from Wednesday night's game was this: Can the undrafted, fourth-year wide receiver with just 33 career receptions to his name continue to be an offensive weapon for the Cowboys?
In other words, can he fill the shoes of his predecessor, Robinson?
The 2011 Version of Laurent Robinson
Any analysis of Ogletree's chances to replace Laurent Robinson as the Dallas Cowboys' third wide receiver needs to start with what is being replaced—Robinson's 2011 campaign.
Robinson began 2011 as an oft-injured and disappointing receiver who had just enough fringe talent to stay in the league.
He was cut from the San Diego Chargers after the preseason, despite posting six catches and 120 yards receiving during the final week.
The Cowboys scooped him up shortly thereafter, only to release him nearly instantaneously because of initial hamstring issues.
It was the hamstring issues of Miles Austin that eventually caused the Cowboys to re-sign Robinson, and the move payed off in dramatic fashion.
Robinson developed into Tony Romo's most reliable receiver as the year wore on, and led the Cowboys in receiving touchdowns with a career-high 11. His receptions (54) and receiving yards (858) were also career-bests.
Tony Romo Has Been Down This Path Before
Laurent Robinson's breakout last year was not the first time we've seen Tony Romo take an unheralded receiver and turn him into gold.
The man who Robinson filled in for in 2011, Miles Austin, had his career begin in similar fashion. In 2009, Austin was no more than a talented third wide receiver for the Cowboys until an injury to Roy Williams gave Austin a chance to shine.
Romo and Austin seemingly had an instant connection as Austin amassed 421 yards receiving over his first two career starts. The rest was history.
Can Ogletree follow suit?
The 2012 Version of Kevin Ogletree
Any analysis of Ogletree's chances to replace Laurent Robinson as the Dallas Cowboys' third wide receiver needs to end with who will be doing the replacing—the 2012 edition of Kevin Ogletree.
We've all heard of Ogletree's potential. The Cowboys have persistently stuck by their guy since he came out of Virginia in 2009. He's provided flashes in seasons past, but they've lasted as long as a hummingbird on a feeder.
So what to make of Ogletree's sudden viability?
As reported by Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News, Tony Romo explains it best:
He’s always had some ability, he just needed to make it important every day. It’s easy when you’re the fourth, fifth, sixth guy. You can kind of get lost and say, 'Well, I’m just going to try to get through the day’ when you’re tired in training camp or other times. Kevin recharges his batteries every single day and made it important that he was going to go out there and make today his best day, and he was going to keep trying to win the day. That’s one thing that he really did a great job that I saw.
His whole job is to make me feel comfortable that he’s going to be in the exact spot I’m going to need him to be at that time. And he’s really done a good job of that.
With just over two minutes remaining in the game, the Cowboys were attempting to squander any hope of a Giants miracle. On a 3rd-and-2, DeMarco Murray slid for what seemed to be the game-clinching first down.
The play was called back on a Jason Witten holding penalty, leaving Romo and company with a then-daunting 3rd-and-12. Without a conversion, the Giants would have had the chance to conjure up more fourth-quarter magic from Eli Manning.
But with the game on the line, Romo went to Ogletree. He delivered. Game over. Cowboys win. Welcome to America's team, Mr. Kevin Ogletree.
Forget what anyone else says; gaining the confidence of your QB is the most important thing for a wide receiver. As long as Ogletree continues to hold Romo's trust, the balls will keep coming his way, and Ogletree will remain a steady producer.
So Will He Actually Replace Laurent Robinson?
In short, yes.
As reported by Machota, Jerry Jones noted (almost prophetically) that Robinson's replacement was already on the Cowboys' roster:
One of the things I liked most about Laurent’s game is that he knew how to keep the play alive while (Tony) Romo was buying time. He particularly did that well in the red zone.
We’ve got a couple of guys that can keep the play alive. I think that’s important to this offense because of Romo’s unique skills.
So, yes we do. We have, I would say, at least two or three receivers that could come in and have the big year.
The key here is finding a guy with an ability to keep the play alive.
What does it mean to keep a play alive? Look no further than Ogletree's two TD receptions Wednesday night.
In both instances, Romo took half-broken plays and kept them alive for just a few seconds longer. Each time, Ogletree found an open spot on the field and was rewarded with TDs.
With that kind of diligence on a consistent basis, Kevin Ogletree is here to stay.
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