Cowboys have quite a catch in WR Laurent Robinson

When the Dallas Cowboys signed Laurent Robinson at the start of

this season, they figured they were getting a serviceable third

receiver. His career numbers warned them not to expect much: four

NFL seasons, four touchdown catches.

Then Robinson got hurt in his first practice. He missed the

opener and was cut days later, written off as another low-risk move

that didn’t pan out.

But a week later, Miles Austin hurt his hamstring. Needing

another receiver, the Cowboys brought Robinson back – and they may

not be enjoying a midseason revival without him.

Robinson has matched his career touchdown total with four in the

past three games, tying him for second on the club. He’s already

set a career best with 441 yards, good for third on the team. His

27 catches are approaching a career high and are fourth on the

Cowboys (5-4).

”It’s all about opportunity,” Robinson said Wednesday.

”You’ve got to be patient and wait for your turn. My turn, I

guess, is now.”

While rookie running back DeMarco Murray has deservedly

commanded attention for what he’s brought to the offense,

Robinson’s performance is almost as important and possibility more

stunning. After all, Murray was a third-round pick and a star at

Oklahoma. Robinson was the veteran averaging a touchdown per

season.

”The more you play, the better you get if you go about it the

right way,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. ”He’s certainly

taking advantage of this chance.”

Robinson’s role keeps changing.

He’s been the No. 3 receiver he initially was expected to be,

and also a starter in place of Austin, opposite Dez Bryant.

Sure, he’s benefited by defenses worrying more about Bryant,

tight end Jason Witten and, of late, Murray. But Robinson also is

getting open and making catches.

”I’m just comfortable in the offense,” Robinson said. ”I’m

playing fast, not thinking too much, just going out there and

playing confident.”

The 6-foot-2, 194-pound Robinson was a third-round pick by

Atlanta in 2007. He spent two years with the Falcons, then the past

two in St. Louis. Injuries kept him from fulfilling his

potential.

He was with the Chargers in training camp when they held several

joint practices with the Cowboys, followed by a preseason game.

Dallas coaches liked what they saw and signed him after San Diego

made him a late cut.

Once Robinson finally got onto the practice field in Dallas,

Tony Romo was dealing with a broken rib. That made it tough to

build a quarterback-receiver bond. Somehow, they did, as evidenced

by Robinson catching seven passes for 116 yards in his second game

with the Cowboys.

The bond has grown quickly. Over the past two games, eight balls

have been thrown his way and he’s caught them all. That includes

touchdowns of 58, 6 and 5 yards.

The short TDs are especially significant because both came on

third downs. Dallas has struggled to finish drives inside the

10-yard line, and might have again had to settle for field goals

without Romo trusting Robinson and Robinson rewarding him with the

clutch catch.

”It’s hard to do what Laurent has done,” Witten said. ”To

come in the middle of the year at a skill position in our offense,

a system that has been in place for five years, it’s not always

easy to do. To make the plays that he’s made consistently, it

really speaks volumes about him, his knowledge of the game and

understanding coverages. He’s done a great job getting on the same

page as Tony.”

Garrett, a former quarterback, said Robinson is

”quarterback-friendly with how he runs routes.” The Princeton

grad then gave a detailed explanation of what that means.

”Some guys just somehow someway present themselves to the

quarterback where it’s easy to throw to him,” Garrett said.

”Whether it’s just that they’re tight at the top of their route or

they come out of their breaks at the right depth, come out of

breaks at the right angle, they’re a big target, they’re consistent

not herky-jerky.”

Then Garrett switched to a baseball analogy, comparing it to the

baseball pitcher who’s ERA is drastically lower with a particular

catcher.

”I don’t really know the specifics of why and how that works,

but I know that at the end of it, they like throwing to him,”

Garrett said.

Robinson had a far less technical description of his way of

doing things: ”I’m just trying to go out there and be in the right

spot, catch the ball and make plays.”

As for his recent touchdown streak, Robinson said he hasn’t had

anything like it since he was in college, at Illinois State. He

also noted that was the last time he wore No. 81, which he’s

wearing again in Dallas. Fans may remember Romo throwing a lot of

touchdown passes to another No. 81: Terrell Owens.

”I’ve gotten a lot of heat, like, `Oh, you’re wearing 81,”’

Robinson said, laughing. ”I’m not thinking about that. I’m just

trying to make plays.”