IRVING, Texas – Everyone knows what Cole Beasley's best at.
He lines up in the slot one-on-one against a defender who isn't prepared for his shiftiness and he runs a quick slant or a quick out with more agility than anyone on the roster, most times leaving that defender flabbergasted and a few steps behind.
The Vikings saw it when Beasley caught six passes for 68 yards last year, and so too did the division rival Eagles, when the diminutive receiver hauled in six catches for 53 yards.
But according to Derek Dooley, there's more to Beasley's game than meets the eye, and the slot receiver's been working on the outside at times throughout OTAs and minicamp. Everyone knows Beasley's got the short and intermediate abilities at receiver, but the Cowboys believe he can be a complete threat.
"The biggest thing is allowing him to do more," Dooley said. "I think the worst thing you can do as a coach is to put limits on players. That's one of the great things about OTAs, it's spring practice for me, is, 'Let's go see if you can do some of these things that a lot of people think you can't do because you're not a big guy.' Well, he can do a lot more than what people think. That's really the biggest focus on these OTAs, is expanding his route inventory."
That doesn't mean abandoning what makes Beasley so special and what got him a roster spot in the first place. His quick game out of the slot will always be his bread and butter, but he also wants to demonstrate the skill to get up field.
"You can always get better at what you're good at, and I want to be the best at what I'm good at," Beasley said. "Also, I know I need to improve in all areas, but I do need to show that I can run more routes than anything in the mid-range and the short range. I need to be able to run those deep routes. If I can run the deep routes, that opens up everything underneath for me a lot more. It'll be way easier for me to get open underneath."
Beasley said defenders who've seen him now just sit short knowing he's going to run his routes inside 10 yards. He believes if he develops the ability to go past that, it'll benefit him and his teammates tremendously.
He said he didn't have many opportunities to run a variety of different routes in the past, but he's been getting those chances thus far this offseason with help from Dooley and new play-caller Scott Linehan.
"Opportunities really come with success, so I've got to show them I can do it and the more I do it, the more they'll give me," Beasley said. "It's really more about me than it is them, to me, in my eyes. As long as I keep getting better and doing what I've been doing and adding that to my game, then they'll give me more opportunities to do that."
Beasley got more opportunities the more he earned the trust of coaches last year. A year after catching 15 passes for 128 yards, Beasley followed that up in 2013 by hauling in 39 catches for 368 yards and the first two touchdowns of his career, but there's still the belief he can do more if given more chances.
"The things he did last year, especially on third down, he was really effective," Dooley said. "Teams who played him with one guy really struggled to win. They had to, later in the season, be aware where No. 11 was."
Dooley said when defenses focused on Beasley, opportunities opened up for other Cowboys receivers. The hope is that If Beasley can develop more routes into his game, then even when teams do focus on him, he can still find ways to get open. That includes burning them deep, if given the opportunity.
Another way to get different matchups for Beasley and to open up space for other receivers is to play him on the outside, giving defenses a look they may not be ready for.
"Bigger guys outside don't have to win by as much because they can fight for that ball when it's up in the air," Garrett said. "That's how his size hurts him. What helps him out there is his quickness, his change of direction. He's a very good route runner and he's able to kind of create the space that he needs as an outside receiver a lot like he's able to do inside.
"His change of direction is really pretty unique and he has a real good feel. He's very quarterback-friendly when he runs his routes. We're trying to give him opportunities in a lot of different spots. He's most natural playing inside, but he's certainly not a non-factor as an outside receiver." [embedded_ad]
As a third-year undrafted and undersized receiver, Beasley goes into every season knowing nothing's guaranteed. This year, the Cowboys drafted a player they valued in the fifth round in wide receiver Devin Street, who will undoubtedly cut into the reps and chances for Beasley.
But that doesn't bother Beasley, who hopes he can make his greatest mark in 2014 after more than doubling his catches and yardage totals from 2012 to 2013.
"To me, it's the same thing every year over and over," he said. "I'm going to have to prove myself more than others just based on me being undersized and all that stuff. To me, I'm always going to be the underdog no matter what I do on the field. It always comes out, they say he's too small. To me, they're drafting someone to replace me every year. I've just got to come in with that mentality."