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August 26, 2012

Harris takes lead in third receiver race but Romo cites progress with all young WRs

In the Dallas Cowboys’ third pre-season game, yet another candidate stepped up to make his case in the race to become the team’s third receiver.

But Saturday’s case made by Dwayne Harris, which included a pair of long-distance touchdown receptions from quarterback Tony Romo, resounded louder than anything seen previously in the pre-season by other contenders for the position.

Harris grabbed three passes for 118 yards, including scoring strikes of 61 and 38 yards from Romo, during Saturday’s 20-19 victory over the St. Louis Rams.

In previous games, receivers Andre Holmes (Oakland), Kevin Ogletree (San Diego) and Cole Beasley (San Diego) enjoyed standout moments. But none of them produced touchdowns against an opponent’s first-team defense or finished plays the way Harris did Saturday.

Romo noticed.

“Dwayne did a good job … It’s never been about the big things (with Harris),” Romo said. “If he can get the little things down, he’s got a chance to really help our football team.”

Harris’ performance moved him to the forefront of the third receiver race, although Ogletree (5 catches, 75 yards) and Beasley (3 catches, 40 yards) also had moments against the Rams.

“Where the conversation starts and ends about that situation, I’ve got a job to do,” Ogletree said. “And that’s to come in and compete and be at my best when the time comes. Guys have been getting an opportunity to make some plays and they’re making the most of it.”

With top receivers Miles Austin (hamstring), Dez Bryant (knee) and tight end Jason Witten (spleen) all missing with injuries, Romo expressed confidence in the team’s young receivers. Dallas threw for 297 yards in the first half, with Romo completing 9-of-13 for 198 yards _ and the two TDs to Harris _ in the first quarter in what projected as his final pre-season tune-up before the Sept. 5 season opener against the New York Giants.

“It’s good to know we have some depth and the guys can do some things,” Romo said. “Our young guys knew what they were doing and it showed.”

Harris topped the list.

“If you’re in the right place at the right time, Tony’s going to find you. He’s a great quarterback and he’s going find the open guy,” Harris said. “Tony tells me, ‘Harris, you’ve got great ability. But you’ve got to eliminate the mental mistakes’ That’s what I tried to do tonight. Eliminate all the mental mistakes and cut down on missed assignments and just do my job.”

He did it well enough to keep his cell phone buzzing during the post-game interview session. How many contratulatory messages did he field?

“I don’t know. It’s still ringing,” Harris said. “I went out there and executed, which is what the coaches wanted to see. It was a really good game for me.”

_ Jimmy Burch

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