Robinson's replacement?

The Dallas Cowboys suffered a blow in free agency when wide receiver Laurent Robinson followed up his breakout 2011 season by signing as a free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

A wide receiver isn't at the top of the Cowboys list of needs — include tight end Jason Witten with wideouts Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, and the team has three solid targets for quarterback Tony Romo — but the team needs to improve at the No. 3 receiver spot, whether it's by adding a player through free agency or the draft, or getting more from someone already on the roster, like Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris, Andre Holmes or Raymond Radway.

But the team is doing its homework, and one player who has caught the attention of the Dallas front office is former Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles, who is among the players making a visit to the team's Valley Ranch facility. Physically, he's not overwhelming — he measured 5-10 and weighed 192 pounds at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis — but he is a gifted receiver. He shakes defensive backs at the line of scrimmage and has an elusive running style, which he'll need until he gets stronger (although he's not exactly weak now, having done 21 repetitions on the bench press with the NFL-standard 225 pounds at the Combine). He also runs precise routes and has exceptional hands.

Another red flag is that his senior season ended early when ripped up his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in November. But Broyles has worked hard in rehab, and started running routes and catching passes. He is expected to work out for scouts on the OU campus later this week.

The injury was suffered in the Sooners' ninth game, at which point he already had caught 83 passes for 1,157 yards and 10 touchdowns. In his career, Broyles played in 48 games, catching 349 passes for 4,586 yards and 45 touchdowns. His best season was his junior year, during which he caught 131 passes for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns (one fewer score than he had as a sophomore).

If he can show that his knee is fully recovered, Broyles seems like a prototypical slot receiver. He has a smallish frame, and is quicker and shiftier than he is fast in a straight sprint. He won't blow up a stopwatch — Broyles was clocked in the mid-4.5s before his injury, and reportedly is running in the mid-4.7s already — but he changes direction and accelerates quickly, and uses his body very well to create separation. He also, despite his limited size, is an explosive jumper who fights for high passes. He could struggle with bigger, stronger cornerbacks who choose to press him at the line of scrimmage, but that is something he can learn to overcome with NFL coaching and increased strength.

His success all comes down to the strength of his knee. If he can show that his knee is fully recovered, and that he can regain his quickness and his elusiveness, Broyles could make an exceptional third receiver.

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