IRVING -- It took more than talent for Laurent Robinson to wind up in the starting lineup for the Dallas Cowboys.
Yes, there was the injury to Miles Austin.
But more than that. There's the quality that has gotten him past being bounced around to three NFL cities.
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"That's what's crazy," he said with a laugh. "I ain't patient at all. But in this game, you've got to be sometimes."
In this game, your chance can come out of nowhere, and it did for Robinson in just his third week with the Cowboys. Filling in because of an injury to Austin, Robinson caught three passes for 49 yards in a game against Washington. The next week, he started and caught seven passes for 116 yards against Detroit.
That got the Cowboys' attention.
"I tell you, Laurent has done as good a job as I've seen of coming in in the middle of the year, playing a skill position, learning the system and then finding a way to make plays," tight end Jason Witten said.
Austin returned the next game, but Robinson kept getting passes. Two weeks ago in Philadelphia, he scored the Cowboys' only touchdown, on a 70-yard pass play. Last week against Seattle, he scored again.
In only six games and one start, he has averaged four catches and become the Cowboys' fourth-leading receiver in both receptions and yards, behind Witten, Austin and Dez Bryant.
And now that Austin is out again with a hamstring injury, Robinson is expected back in the starting lineup when the Cowboys play the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
He returns with the Cowboys' complete confidence.
"Absolutely," Witten said. "He's earned that. For sure. No question."
It takes a lot for anyone to replace Austin, a Pro Bowler two years ago who has led the Cowboys in receiving yards each of the past two seasons. It takes even more to ask it of a former third-round pick who played in only 38 games in his first four years, mainly because of injuries, and who was cut in preseason by San Diego, his most recent team.
But the Cowboys had a good idea of what they were seeing with Robinson. Receivers coach Jimmy Robinson, then with the Green Bay Packers, had evaluated him in the 2007 draft.
In August, he and the Cowboys got a firsthand look at him when they practiced twice against the Chargers and played them in a preseason game.
"I had a pretty good grade on him coming out," said Robinson, in his first year as Cowboys receivers coach. "Liked him a lot. I thought he showed explosiveness and speed and ability to catch the ball down the field. Good hands. He's a guy that hasn't surprised me with what he's done."
Not that the Cowboys should have expected it. Just days after being signed by the Cowboys, Robinson suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out of the Week 2 game at San Francisco.
It was a familiar problem for Robinson, who was slowed by the same injury for much of his two years with Atlanta, which drafted him in the third round in 2007.
The Falcons traded him to St. Louis after two years, but he missed most of his first year with the Rams because of an ankle injury. Last season, he started 11 games and caught 34 passes for the Rams, but they didn't keep him. He signed with San Diego for training camp, but didn't make it past the final cut.
Suddenly, after all that, he's about to start his second game for the Cowboys. And he's only 13 catches away from the career-high 37 he posted as a rookie in Atlanta.
"I know I've got talent," Robinson said. "I know I can make plays. I'm not a cocky guy, but I believe in myself. I'm just trying to do a better job of taking care of my body, doing everything extra off the field to make sure I stay on the field."
At this rate, the Cowboys will make sure of that.
Carlos Mendez 817-390-7760