Sunday's Game To Feature WR Trio Lacking Height, Not Playmaking Ability

IRVING, Texas– In today's NFL, where some of the best receivers in football possess both speed and size, such as Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones and Dez Bryant, there's always room for the exception.

In fact, some might argue that the next wave of great receivers in the game are exactly the opposite of the big, strong wideouts who fit the stereotypes.

Sunday when the Patriots come to town, three of the most productive receivers in football all stand under 5-11, including two from New England's Super Bowl-winning team. And one of them, Danny Amendola, was a former player with the Cowboys in 2008, spending the season on the practice squad before he decided not to return.

But the combination of Amendola and Julian Edelman (5-10) are two of the biggest weapons for future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. And for the Cowboys, pass-catcher Cole Beasley (5-8) has added a new dimension to the Dallas offense.

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett was the offensive coordinator when the team had Amendola, and even coached Wes Welker (5-9) in Miami for two years.

"I've been fortunate to be around these kinds of players before," Garrett said. "I think (Welker) was kind of the guy with the recent generation who has shown people of that stature can play and be really effective. There have been a number of other guys who have come on Wes' heels, and I think we all had appreciation for Amendola when we got him. He did a lot of good things for us."

But unlike most practice squad players at the end of the year, Amendola chose not to return and signed with the Eagles, before landing gigs with the Rams and now New England.

When asked if letting Amendola go was on the Cowboys' minds when Beasley came around in 2012, Garrett said it wasn't really that complicated of a decision.

"Beasley is a guy that just right from the start when he got in here, just started making plays," Garrett said of the undrafted free agent from SMU. "One of the things we try to do in evaluating our players is you try to keep it fairly simple. Guys who keep making plays, don't tell me where they came from, how big or small they are or what their arm length is. If they keep making plays, that's Line One regardless of what their position is. 'Bease' did that for us and he continues to do that."

But ask Beasley who inspires him and it starts to make sense, a little bit.

"Julian Edelman is probably my favorite player in the league," he said Thursday. "I've watched him a lot. Our games are pretty similar. He does some things a little different, but it's always fun to watch him. Hopefully it's not as fun this week."

Edelman, in his seventh season with the Patriots, caught the game-winning touchdown from Brady in last year's Super Bowl, which came after New England cut into Seattle's lead with a touchdown pass to Amendola. But Edelman and Beasley have something else in common other than their lack of height.

Edelman, who ranks sixth in the NFL this year with 30 receptions, played quarterback at Kent State and Beasley was a former high school quarterback in nearby Little Elm, Texas.

"Just understanding coverages more than anything," Beasley said when asked how playing QB can help slot receivers. "When you play quarterback, high school is different because the coverages aren't as detailed or disguised. It's a good starting point. You just have a good understanding of where you're supposed to be and what the coverages are going to be."

While the Patriots will be a tough matchup for the Cowboys in a variety of ways, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said Beasley has helped them prepare for these situations.

"He gives us a good look," Marinelli said. "We've been working since training camp. We've had them all from Dez, the best in the league, and this tight end we work on with Jason (Witten). Our offense has got some rare talent also."

But while Beasley said Edelman has been his favorite player, he doesn't mind hitting the pause button on that admiration this week.

"Yeah, not this week," Beasley said with a laugh. "But it's always good to see undersized guys succeed. A lot of people say it's not likely they will, so it's good to see them perform at a high level."

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