Dallas Cowboys  

 

Robinson's unexpected resurgence solidifies 'Boys WR corps

  • By Jeff Darlington NFL.com
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Matthew Emmons / US Presswire
Laurent Robinson has seven touchdowns in his past six games, leading the 'Boys to first place in the NFC East.

IRVING, Texas -- Midway through a conversation with Cowboys wide receiver Laurent Robinson at his locker Thursday, he and I were interrupted by the fun-loving chatter of a neighboring teammate, Dez Bryant, who was trying to throw his own few thoughts into our mix.

"Do you even know how many teams Laurent has played for?" I asked Bryant, succumbing to his noise.

"He probably doesn't," said Robinson, a fifth-year veteran.

Bryant was quiet for a brief moment. Then, his response:

"Shoot, it doesn't matter," said Bryant, as he threw up a single index finger. "I know one of 'em!"

Touché.

Although he missed the greater point -- that Robinson's career deserves some undivided attention after finally finding success in a fourth stop in five seasons -- Bryant unintentionally made a better one: It doesn't matter how Robinson got to the Cowboys. It only matters that he did.

With seven touchdowns in the past six games, Robinson has been a key component to four wins during that span, each of which has kept Dallas in charge of the NFC East. He has become one of Tony Romo's favorite targets because of his sure hands and consistent routes, which has been beneficial since Miles Austin has been sidelined four games with a hamstring issue.

"I'm just getting the opportunity, man," Robinson said. "I'm doing everything I can do to take care of my body before practice and after practice. And I'm loving the offense, getting on the same page as Tony, playing with some Pro Bowl players. I'm just trying to find my niche and hang on."

He's doing more than that -- which will make things particularly interesting this week if, as anticipated, Austin makes his return.

Sure, it could lessen Robinson's role. Or it just could give Romo another weapon in key situations as the Cowboys try to parlay a successful December into a postseason berth. Obviously, Dallas is cool with the latter, especially since Robinson serves a quarterback-friendly role that will continue to serve a purpose.

"Some guys just, some how, some way, present themselves to the quarterback where it's easy to throw to them," coach Jason Garrett said recently. "Whether it's just that they're tight at the top of the route, come out of their breaks at the right depth, come out of their breaks at the right angle, they're a big target, they're consistent, they're not herky-jerky."

For a player dubbed consistent, though, it has definitely been an unpredictable ride to this point. Drafted by the Falcons in 2007 out of Illinois State, he was traded two seasons later to the Rams, where a fractured fibula in September immediately put him behind. He couldn't bounce back in time for a disappointing 2010 season, leading to a brief stay in San Diego.

Injuries led to change. Change led to undeveloped relationships with quarterbacks, which in turn led to a lack of opportunities on the field.

"I had a lot of confidence in myself, and I felt like I can make the plays to be a go-to guy in this league," Robinson said. "But I just had to be patient to wait for my opportunity. I knew once I got it, I could make something happen with it."

During his first game in Dallas (a Week 2 win against Washington), Romo sought out Robinson three times for 49 yards -- an experience that even caught the receiver off guard.

"Tony and I were on the same page during my first game," he said. "He was looking for me a couple of times. I was only expecting to play like 15 plays the whole game, and he found me like three times. I was excited. From then on, we've just been clicking."

The next game? Seven catches for 116 yards. Three games after that? Five catches for 103 yards and a 70-yard touchdown. The connection was made, and it's remained intact since.

Despite a shoulder injury suffered in the first half of Sunday's loss to Arizona, Robinson is expected to play Sunday against the Giants. As long as Austin returns, it'll mark the first time in more than a month that Romo will have a full slate of receivers available in the same game. Now, the Cowboys at least can find this silver lining in Miles' injury: They found another playmaker.

As this team pushes forward, needing a win Sunday to take a two-game lead in the division with three to play, it will need as much firepower on offense as it can get. Robinson, who has seemingly found his place in the NFL, will most certainly help provide it.

"You've got to build depth at the receiver position," Robinson said.

"When somebody goes down, somebody has to be prepared to step into the position and make plays. You know, not skip a beat."

Thanks to Robinson, that's exactly what happened.

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @JeffDarlington.

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