Kevin Ogletree coming into his own

SAN DIEGO -- Before you go gaga over Cole Beasley and his seven-catch, 104-yard performance against the San Diego Chargers, give some attention to Kevin Ogletree.

While the Dallas Cowboys' No. 3 receiver spot isn't locked up, Ogletree made a powerful argument for the role Saturday night.

Ogletree caught four passes for 60 yards against the Chargers' first- and second-team units. He made a tough, leaping, 35-yard reception against starter Quentin Jammer while taking a hit, leading to the first touchdown of the preseason for the Cowboys.

The catch certainly left an impression on owner/general manager Jerry Jones.

"What I liked about Ogletree was, in tight, when it was a collision to get the ball, he made the big catch," Jones said. "One of the criticisms of him is physically he needs to get better when he has the physically contested ball. I think he's shown that with that big catch. We know he's got speed. We know he's got quickness. I thought he made a statement for himself."

Nothing against Beasley, who had six of his catches in the fourth quarter against the third-team Chargers defense and could be the fourth or fifth receiver for the Cowboys, but with two preseason games remaining, Ogletree is the leader to become Dallas' No. 3 receiver.

The Cowboys' third receiver is a valuable role right now, given the tenuous hamstrings of starter Miles Austin and the uncertainty of when tight end Jason Witten will return from a slightly lacerated spleen.

Ogletree is starting to perform the way the Cowboys had envisioned when they picked him up as an undrafted free agent in 2009.

Before now, he had been shaky. A glimpse here, a glimpse there. Nothing of substance.

Now, it appears something has clicked with Ogletree.

The reality of almost losing his brother, Calvin Ogletree, who was shot in the head days after the 2011 season ended, put life and the NFL into perspective.

Ogletree received little interest on the free-agent market when the Cowboys elected not to tender him a contract offer after last season. The team later brought him back on a one-year deal but then drafted Danny Coale in the fifth round and signed Beasley, who has impressed the coaches in training camp, as a potential speedy slot receiver. Of course, the Cowboys already had Raymond Radway and 2011 draft pick Dwayne Harris waiting in the wings. Radway looked like he had earned a roster spot last year until he suffered a fractured leg in the final preseason game.

Ogletree watched it all develop and was forced to re-evaluate his status with the team and in the NFL, if you will.

"This is my life, man, this is how I feed my family," Ogletree said. "It's really important to me. You have to approach it seriously, and this is the most serious I've been."

The third receiver for the Cowboys has been a popular position in recent years, given the success of those who have been able to hold down the role.

Last year, Laurent Robinson led the team with 11 touchdowns. In 2009, Patrick Crayton had 622 receiving yards -- third most on the team -- and in 2003, Antonio Bryant finished with 550 yards as the No. 3 receiver.

Ogletree has never had more than 170 receiving yards in an NFL season. Last year, he had career highs in catches (15) and yards (164). He still doesn't have any touchdowns.

Yet, the events of the offseason have forced Ogletree to focus on his craft more. He's running smoother routes and catching the ball in traffic and in single coverage. He's blocking better and listening more, even though last week in practice receivers coach Jimmy Robinson screamed to get his attention.

"Kevin has done a great job and gotten some great work in," quarterback Tony Romo said. "He's matured, in a sense. He's committed himself. I've talked to him a number of times. He's had ability since he's been here. It takes more than that. It comes down to his ability to take it and make it important each day you walk in."

So while it's nice to talk up Beasley, don't forget about Ogletree.

"Kevin has shown flashes for a long time," Romo said. "It's just that he needed to make it each day. He's got to be that guy, he's got to make it that important. And he's done that and he's really come on this offseason and this training camp. I'm glad the production is showing on the field."