How deep is Cowboys' wide receiver group?

IRVING, Texas -- Last week Dallas Cowboys wide receivers coach Derek Dooley was asked about Brice Butler’s chances of becoming the team’s No. 2 receiver when he made a comment about his group in general.

“This is probably the deepest our core has been since I’ve been here, top to bottom,” Dooley said. “We have a very talented group and a very competitive group, so it will be fun to watch them all the way through training camp.”

That got me to thinking: Is it the truth or a coach just spouting off coach-like things?

Dooley has been the Cowboys’ receivers coach since 2013. That year he had Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Terrance Williams, a rookie third-round pick, as his top three wideouts. Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley also were role players.

In 2014, Austin was gone and Devin Street, a fifth-round pick, moved into the group with Bryant, Williams, Beasley and Harris.

In 2015, Harris left as a free agent to the New York Giants, and Butler was acquired in a trade from the Oakland Raiders after Bryant broke his foot. Williams put up career highs in catches and yards, but his time as Bryant’s replacement was not smooth. Beasley had a career-high 52 catches. Lucky Whitehead made the team as an undrafted receiver based mostly on his return ability. Street caught two passes. Vince Mayle played in one game as well.

Judging the receivers off last year is difficult because of the up-and-down quarterback play after Tony Romo was hurt twice.

This offseason, Bryant has worked back from January foot surgery. Williams is entering the final year of his contract. Beasley has been impossible to defend this spring. Butler has shown positive signs. Street, Whitehead and Mayle have been relatively quiet, but undrafted rookie Andy Jones has caught some attention. Undrafted rookie Chris Brown has terrific speed. Second-year receiver Rodney Smith, who spent time on the practice squad, has terrific size.

The Cowboys believe Bryant will return to his top-receiver status after catching just 31 passes in nine games last season. Williams has something to prove if not to the Cowboys than other teams if he wants a big-time deal. Beasley is one of the better slot receivers around. Butler is in a similar situation as Williams with an expiring contract.

“I thought our personnel department did a great job early in the year building the bottom of our roster, and now these guys have a chance to ascend,” Dooley said. “So again, (Butler, Mayle, Smith) they’re all like rookies in some way because this is their first offseason here.”