HOUSTON - AUGUST 25: Wide receiver Sam Hurd #17 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball against the Houston Texans in the second quarter at Reliant Stadium on August 25, 2007 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
With Patrick Crayton being anointed as Dallas' no. 2 receiver recently, one of the two intriguing position battles at Cowboys training camp drew to an early close. Miles Austin and Sam Hurd both had a reasonable enough shot at the role, if for no other reason than the field seemed--and was-- so wide open, but they ultimately fell short to the more experienced, more reliable Crayton.
The team has been high on the pair of receivers since 2006, when they entered the NFL as rookies; since then, though, none of their seemingly significant promise has materialized as they have been consistently maligned by injury, stranded in football purgatory.
It's not all that surprising then, given their afflicted and eerily similar pasts, that the two find themselves in the exact spot they were in this time last year in Oxnard; namely, dueling it out for the no. 3 spot.
Austin and Hurd, both entering their fourth NFL season, have much to prove; namely that they can stay healthy enough to finally fulfill their considerable potential on the field. This does not make them unique in the scope of Dallas' receivers.
Roy Williams must prove that he can be a true no. 1--on the biggest stage in the NFL-- and in an offense that will be directly geared (ostensibly) towards the run.
Patrick Crayton must prove that he is every bit the no. 2 we saw in 2007, when he filled that role in Terry Glenn's absence and had his best year to date, catching 50 passes for 697 yards and 7 touchdowns.
"Unproven" is no longer the exception as far as Dallas' receivers are concerned, but the rule; because when Terrell Owens left town, he took any certainty at the wide receiver position in Dallas with him.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. One of the major factors in the decision to get rid of T.O., in fact, was the team's outspoken desire for Austin and Hurd to develop freely, something that was hindered to a degree by the presence of a fish as big as Owens in the lineup.
With Owens, and any excuse borne of his presence gone, though, prove-yourself-time is at hand, not just for Austin and Hurd, but the receiving corps--and really the team--as a whole.