Cowboy’s WR Miles Austin, Progress Stopper?


How many times in the last couple years watching the Dallas Cowboys play have you asked yourself, where’s Miles Austin?

September 18, 2011; San Francisco, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin (19) dives into the end zone to score a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter at Candlestick Park. The Cowboys defeated the 49ers 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

When he disappears in games, where does he go?  I barely remember a game since 2010 where he stood out.  The only game that I can remember where Miles stood out in that time span was in week 2 of the 2011 season against the 49ers and it was really just one catch where he finger-tipped and tip-toed into the endzone for a touchdown.  That was a great catch that showcased his talent.

Yes, Miles is very talented – when he wants to be – it seems.  We are told that he has been suffering from continual hamstring problems over the last couple years, and while I don’t doubt that, I wonder how many times his disappearing in games or heading to the sidelines was true injury or just business decisions.

A Business decisionLet me digress a moment and tell you how much I hate what these two words represent.  It’s an internal conflict watching your team struggle and one or more of the players is choosing ‘self’ over ‘team’.  As completely understandable as it is that an athlete must care for and protect the very thing that provides their living,  sometimes it ends up being at the teams expense, when the team needs them most.  It’s understandable and probably for the best in the long run, but it’s also a glaring act of selfishness in a team sport.

Well, anyway, amazingly and definitely quietly,  Miles actually had a solid year, nearly gaining 1,000 yards receiving.  I’m still trying to figure out how.  With those hamstrings, Miles was at 80% speed and couldn’t break away from anyone.  The Cowboys must have figured 80% of Miles is better than 100% of the unknown WR’s on the sidelines.

December 30, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris (17) runs with the ball against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

That has always been a problem with the Dallas Cowboys.  They fear the unknown, sticking with a player they are familiar with rather than trust the scouts and their own draft and go with promising young talent.  They sat Tony Romo behind proven has-beens (sorry Vinny and Drew).  They kept James Brady 2 years too long and Keith Brooking 1 year too long, all the while Sean Lee was sitting behind them.  Had the Cowboys sat Miles Austin and let Dwayne Harris or Cole Beasley play instead, would Romo and company have experienced more success?  Does that make Miles Austin the latest Cowboy’s WR who’s become a progress stopper?

The other Cowboys WRs that stopped progress in recent years were T.O. and Roy Williams.  T.O. stopped all the pass catchers from making progress, and Roy Williams, well Roy would have kept Miles Austin from emerging.  About that last one, did Roy Williams really progress stop Miles?  Possibly, but after a few years to review, Miles didn’t emerge as a top flight receiver as much as he really just rose to the occasion – which is good too – but not the same.

Dallas analyst and former scout, Bryan Broaddus, if I remember correctly, said that Miles sometimes misjudges the ball or has trouble finding it on deep routes.  That seems spot on when you consider that 2011 Giants game, where we would have (most likely) won had Miles caught that pass when he was behind the defense with nothing but field in front of him, and later said he lost the ball in the lights.  Not to mention the other examples when you go back over his play over the last few years.

Miles admission and Broaddus’ evaluation leads me to believe that Miles is a slot receiver.  He’s not a number one or a number two WR, although his talent would suggest otherwise.  His size, strength and speed make him perfect for the slot position.  Maybe if the Cowboys didn’t have Miles stretching the field so often, his hamstrings wouldn’t blow out every other game.  I think Dwayne Harris is a better option at the number two WR spot on the opposite side of Dez Bryant.  The only problem with that is Dwayne is also a very good return man and I’d hate to see him used as both and get hurt or burn out.

Miles needs to go back to the slot, where he fits best.  But

Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) talk with Miles Austin (19) during a timeout in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Eagles 38-33. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Cole Beasley and Danny Coale have great potential at the slot postion now as well, especially Beasley, who could be the Cowboys own Wes Welker.  Unfortunately for Miles Austin, the Cowboys moving him to the number one WR spot may have created his down fall and made him expendable this year.  Moving Miles left a void at number two and number three (slot), which the Cowboys filled with Dez Bryant and Harris, Beasley, Coale, Ogletree (yuck), and others.

Dez has now clearly taken over the number one spot.  Harris ended the year, to me, the clear number two.  In that scenario, Austin is left in the slot – leaving the progress of  Cole Beasley, and maybe Danny Coale, stopped.