Dallas Cowboys: Antonio Brown

On Miles Austin's value

May, 30, 2013
I get a lot of questions about Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin. It seems every time a receiver of any note is potentially available, fans want to know whether the Cowboys will or should sign him to replace Austin. I usually respond with a question, specifically, "What does everybody dislike so much about Miles Austin?"

Todd Archer feels the same way, and has this piece on ESPNDallas.com to remind everyone of how valuable Austin still is to the Cowboys' offense, even with the emergence of Dez Bryant as a star and the drafting of Terrance Williams in the third round in April:
Dig deeper into what Austin did last year when he caught 66 passes for 943 yards and six touchdowns.

He outperformed the leading wide receivers on 16 other teams in catches, yards or touchdowns, including pass-catchers in Arizona (Larry Fitzgerald), Baltimore (Anquan Boldin), Seattle (Sidney Rice), Washington (Josh Morgan) and Pittsburgh (Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown). Aside from Arizona, there is not a poor quarterback throwing to anyone in that bunch.

In a division with Bryant, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, Austin had the fourth-most catches and touchdowns and was third in yards. And he put up those numbers on an offense that had Jason Witten set an NFL record for catches in a season by a tight end (110) and Bryant explode for 92 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The knocks on Austin seem to be that he's always got some kind of nagging injury that either keeps him from playing or limits his production, and that he hasn't lived up to his brilliant 2009 numbers. Valid points both, but sometimes I think we have to step back and think about what our expectations for these guys really are and what they should be. Austin remains one of the Cowboys' starting wide receivers. Even if Williams comes quickly, the best arrangement for the Dallas offense when it goes to three wide receivers will be Bryant and deep-threat Williams on the outside with the versatile Austin moving inside to play the slot. Austin can play anywhere, and produces better than your average No. 2 wide receiver. I think it's probably a good idea for fans to remember he is still a very valuable guy, and stop rushing to get rid of him.
There were 31 wide receivers taken in the 2010 NFL draft, with the Cowboys moving up to select Dez Bryant out of Oklahoma State with the 24th pick. Looking at the receivers taken in that class and how they've produced, Bryant is emerging as the best of the bunch.

Ben and Skin discuss the hypothetical idea of trading Tony Romo, as outrageous as it sounds, and what impact it would have.

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In three seasons, Bryant leads all the receivers in his class in yards (2,871), catches (200) and touchdowns (27). Denver's Demaryius Thomas is closest to him in yards with 2,268 and Tampa Bay's Mike Williams is closest in touchdowns with 23.

The Steelers' Antonio Brown (2,062 yards and seven touchdowns) has also shown himself to be a dynamic receiverk, and of course you can see the talent in Seattle's Golden Tate (1,297 yards and 10 touchdowns). But Bryant's big-play ability, given his increasing understanding of the offense, is making him the cream of the crop.

In terms of becoming one of the best receivers in the game, he's still needs more seasoning before he's mentioned with Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Brandon Marshall.

However, defenses are trying to take him out of game and forcing Tony Romo to find other targets. Bryant didn't get as many balls thrown his way as he could have because he was often double-teamed with a safety and a cornerback. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bryant had a linebacker drop underneath him in coverage.

Former wide receivers coach Ray Sherman called Bryant a freak in terms of his abilities. Bryant has the best hands on the team and is the most physical receiver of the group. Miles Austin is probably more polished because he's played longer, but when it comes time to make big plays, or important plays, Bryant has emerged as a favorite of Romo.

Bryant finished the 2012 season in a three-way tie among receivers for the league lead with five fourth-quarter touchdowns. Minnesota's Kyle Rudolph and Marshall also had five fourth-quarter touchdowns.

If the Cowboys can depend on Bryant long term they have an outstanding talent that can become the focal point of the offense.

Drive of the Game: Victor Butler's forced fumble

December, 16, 2012
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The drive of the game was actually started by the play of the game.

Trailing 24-17 early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys had to punt from their 24 and were watching the game against the Steelers slip away. But then Victor Butler changed everything.

Butler stripped the ball from Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown on a 22-yard punt return, and John Phillips recovered at the Steelers 44. Seven plays later, DeMarco Murray had the game-tying touchdown run.

If not for Butler, the Steelers were looking at an even longer return that could have been a touchdown or at least a short field for the offense.

“I was going for the ball,” Butler said of his swipe. “Usually you go for the ball, he’s got to slow down. The way he was running, we needed him to slow down.”

Tony Romo completed three passes to three receivers (Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Dwayne Harris) to set up a first-and-goal from the Pittsburgh 3.

After two incomplete passes to Bryant, Murray got the call and was able to get into the end zone to tie the score at 24-24 with 6:55 to play.

Dez Bryant needs to take over games

September, 5, 2012
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The issues regarding Dez Bryant off the field don’t matter now.

He’s got a pending domestic violence case hanging over him and rules he must follow to help stay out of trouble.

What matters now for Bryant is on-the-field stuff.

Every time you ask Jason Garrett about Bryant’s work as a professional football player, he says it’s been outstanding.

The Cowboys visit the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on Wednesday night at MetLife Stadium. These are the games Bryant likes to play in.

National television.

Something on the line.

As talented as Bryant is, elite receiver isn’t something you can place on his resume. In reality, other players drafted or signed in 2009 or 2010 have become more accomplished.

Take the lead receiver for the Giants: Hakeem Nicks. In three NFL seasons, he’s got two 1,000-yard seasons. Bryant, a first-round pick in 2010, has yet to reach that milestone once.

How about Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers? In three NFL seasons, Wallace has two 1,000-yard seasons and 24 touchdowns. Another Steelers receiver, Antonio Brown, caught 69 passes for 1,108 yards and two touchdowns in 2011. He was drafted the same year as Bryant, who has yet to catch more than 63 passes in a single-season.

Injuries and playing alongside targets Miles Austin and Jason Witten are some of the reasons why Bryant hasn't accumulated big numbers yet.

When you round up his off-the-field stuff and the fact he hasn't taken over, it makes you wonder if he’s worth all this trouble.

"I think he’s more focused," wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said. "I think he’s more intent on really improving. That speaks of a more mature young man."

As Bryant enters his third NFL season, he has a firm command of the offense and has a zen-like focus on the field. Some NFL experts tell you that wide receivers begin to show major improvements during Year 3.

The Cowboys believe at some point Bryant will take over games. It’s not about getting 100-yard games, though Bryant has just one on his resume. It’s about becoming a dominant force in the passing game.

We’re still waiting for Bryant's moment.

"But obviously, we’ve got to get the ball to him more to go over 100 yards," Robinson said. "That’s part of our job as coaches, to try to get the ball to the playmakers. He’s one of our key playmakers. That doesn’t mean we’re going to force the ball to him, because we’ve got a lot of playmakers. He’s got to hold up his end of that in terms of getting open, win on those one-on-one situations where we feel like he should win."

Wednesday night against the Giants would be a good start.

Dez Bryant: Cowboys have NFL's best WR corps

December, 16, 2011
It wasn’t enough to win, but the Cowboys’ wide receiving corps provided a glimpse of how potent it can be against the Giants.

With Miles Austin back in the mix, the Cowboys’ wide receivers accounted for 250 yards and three touchdowns, with Austin, Laurent Robinson and Dez Bryant each scoring once.

Austin is a two-time Pro Bowler with a $54 million contract, but he’s been the Cowboys’ third most productive wide receiver this season, in large part because he’s missed six games due to hamstring injuries. Robinson and Bryant both have chances to finish with 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown seasons.

“I feel like without a doubt that we are the best receiving corps in the league,” Bryant said.

That’s debatable. There are other receiving corps that can make the same claim, including the one that won Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium. But the Cowboys’ trio is at least in the conversation if Austin can stay healthy.

Here’s how the Cowboys’ wideouts compare to the other elite receiving corps in the league:

Laurent Robinson – 46 catches, 763 yards, 8 TD
Dez Bryant – 47 catches, 756 yards, 8 TD
Miles Austin – 32 catches, 466 yards, 5 TD

Victor Cruz – 68 catches, 1,150 yards, 7 TD
Hakeem Nicks – 65 catches, 1,023 yards, 6 TD
Mario Manningham -- 36 catches, 466 yards, 4 TD

Mike Wallace – 62 catches, 1,034 yards, 8 TD
Antonio Brown – 55 catches, 925 yards, 2 TD
Hines Ward – 37 catches, 325 yards, 2 TD

Jordy Nelson – 51 catches, 957 yards, 10 TD
Greg Jennings – 67 catches, 949 yards, 9 TD
James Jones – 26 catches, 479 yards, 5 TD
Donald Driver – 31 catches, 357 yards, 4 TD