The lack of depth at wide receiver for the Cowboys isn't a secret.
Kevin Ogletree has 10 NFL catches, Manny Johnson has one and the other wideouts not named Miles Austin or Dez Bryant have combined for as many professional catches as both your grandmothers and the dog next door. If the Cowboys don't add another body, one of those guys is going to be the third receiver for this team, a scary enough thought even before you realize NFL players get hurt pretty often and force reserves into starting roles.
The Cowboys are going to get a taste of that life on Thursday. Austin hurt his hamstring during practice earlier this week and will sit out Thursday's joint practice with the Chargers with hopes of returning for Sunday's preseason game.
All signs are that this is precautionary and that Austin would handle things differently in the regular season, news that should quiet any nascent panic about Ogletree having a major role in the future of the Cowboy offense. But Austin's absence isn't all bad news.
If the Cowboys are going to go with the hand they have at wide receiver, they need to find out if these guys can actually do the job. You can't get that by seeing Dwayne Harris run patterns against third string defensive backs, because those aren't the players that you'll have to beat once the regular season gets underway.
Thursday's practice gives the Cowboys a chance to run the reserve receivers out against first-team competition without any chance of damaging themselves. There's no penalty for letting Ogletree get beaten up by the opposition, it might even have a beneficial effect on him going forward, and that's doubly true if Austin can't go on Sunday when everyone is moving at full speed.
Having faith in players who haven't yet achieved at the highest level is fine, but blind faith isn't okay. The Cowboys need to know what they have to make a decision about what will be best for their team in 2011. Austin's injury might give them that chance and that's a good thing.
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