The answer to the headline, just to get started, is yes.
In fact, I think that Kevin Ogletree is among the least utilized weapons in the Dallas Cowboys offense.
It wasn’t long ago that the answer to the headline above was both easy and unanimous.
Be honest, how did you feel following Ogletree’s breakout performance at New York to begin the 2012 regular season? You had to be feeling pretty good about his 114 yards receiving on just eight receptions and two touchdowns—including the first of his four-year career.
Well, that was way, way back in Week 1, and not much has happened since that huge opening night in September. Since the victory over the Giants, Ogletree has combined for 13 catches for 134 yards and he still has those two career touchdowns.
The easy thing to do would be to take the recent lack of statistics and make a rash judgment based only on numbers. The point is that we all know that Ogletree can be a weapon in this offense. At some point it falls onto the shoulders of the guy calling the plays to present opportunities for any offensive player to get involved with moving the football.
In other words, Ogletree can’t just call his number whenever he wants and expect the ball to come flying in his direction.
The top two receivers in Dallas are Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. Most of quarterback Tony Romo’s passes are going to one of these two guys, with the rest going to tight end Jason Witten and running backs DeMarco Murray or Felix Jones.
Who should play third wide receiver for Dallas Cowboys?
There will never be enough balls to go around for Ogletree to post big numbers week in, week out. That’s not what’s required of him in the first place.
And, no, SMU rookie Cole Beasley is not the answer either. Beasley may fit a need in this offense at some point in the future, but he is no upgrade over Ogletree in any way, shape or form.
When you think of Ogletree, think of other players who have fit the important role of possession receiver for the Cowboys in years past.
In the Cowboys' glory days of the 1990s, the Dallas offense was pretty loaded at the wide receiver position. While Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin and counterpart Alvin Harper were terrorizing opposing defensive secondaries, it was sometimes Kelvin Martin who made a critical catch in traffic or on occasion got deep for a big play.
Ogletree can be that kind of guy.
America’s Team of the 1970s had Drew Pearson and Tony Hill, but Golden Richards and then Butch Johnson were sometimes that last weapon to an already potent offensive attack who just weren't accounted for by opposing defenses.
Even recently, Patrick Crayton was a rather dependable receiver who caught lots of passes (and certainly dropped a few) from Romo despite the presence of primary targets like Terrell Owens, Roy Williams, Terry Glenn or Austin.
Yes, Ogletree is the answer as the third wide receiver because he has shown he can capitalize in certain situations. Upping his consistency is the issue here, and while Ogletree shoulders some of the blame for dropped passes, he still needs his number called more often.
Ogletree is just big enough to out-jump the smaller corners he’ll likely draw while lined up in the slot. He's also quick enough to separate from taller and stronger corners sometimes present. A receiver like Ogletree would rarely if ever draw an opponent’s top cover corner and so the mismatches are there.
Ogletree has the ability to get lost in coverage. There’s a good chance that he’s only lacking some trust from Romo before he can average 5-7 catches per game, but he’s absolutely capable of doing so.
I expect to see lots of activity from Ogletree on Sunday. If he did it once then he could do it again. In the first Giants-Cowboys game, New York had no answer for Ogletree, and I expect the Giants to come in better prepared for him as a contributor. Still, how much attention can New York really place on Ogletree without getting sizzled by both Austin and Bryant.
This is exactly what happened on opening night.
There is still time for Romo and Ogletree to find the kind of connection and timing that Romo and Laurent Robinson had a year ago.
Starting with Baltimore two weeks ago, the Cowboys are playing better football, despite the 1-1 record over that time. While the running game is still a bit predictable and stale, the recent commitment to it is a positive sign, and it’s also helping to keep pressure off of Romo.
Perhaps the best future indicator for Ogletree is the play of the offensive line, especially coming out of the bye week.