Dallas Cowboys: Five-star W2

Five-star answer: 49ers don't have a Revis

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
9:25
AM ET
This week's question: Is this the week Miles Austin gets 100 receiving yards?

After struggling throughout the preseason with a hamstring injury, Miles Austin was outstanding last weekend against the Jets. In my book, Garrett and the staff made a mistake by not putting the football in his hands down the stretch.

Garrett and the Cowboys had the matchup they needed but didn’t take advantage of it. Dez Bryant, who was banged up both mentally and physically, was put in situation where he was asked to make plays but couldn't deliver against the Jets' best defensive player. In his condition, Bryant wasn't going to beat Revis. The more you watched him play in the second half, the more you understood this.

The bottom line was that Antonio Cromartie simply could not cover Austin. I do not see Garrett making that same mistake this week vs. the 49ers. The most difficult situation for the Cowboys is when Bryant doesn’t practice and he doesn’t get the reps. Bryant needs these reps to have a chance to be successful, because he's not at that point in his development where he can miss practice and jump right into the game plan. He needs to be drilled and he needs to be coached. Bryant should play against the 49ers, but Austin will have the offensive success.

I look for the Cowboys' offensive line to be able to protect Romo, giving him the necessary time to deliver the ball downfield. The 49ers' most talented position is at linebacker, not corner. The 49ers line up at corner with Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock at the nickel. Brown played the best last week against the Seahawks, and Rogers has gone against the Cowboys before while with the Redskins. It goes without saying, but there is no Darrelle Revis in this group and I can see Garrett taking advantage of that this week After last week's final interception, look for Romo to be even more committed to getting Austin the ball and the 49ers looking for ways to stop him.

Austin gets his 100 yards.

Five-star answer: Austin powered by Romo

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
9:15
AM ET
This week's question: Is this the week Miles Austin gets 100 receiving yards?

As long as Tony Romo remains upright, Miles Austin will be all right.

You can knock Austin’s numbers from the last 13 games, but Romo didn’t finish a dozen of those (and didn’t start 11). That makes a pretty big difference for a receiver who has put up elite numbers as a starter when his three-time Pro Bowl quarterback has been healthy.

Austin just didn’t click with Jon Kitna, who isn’t much of a vertical passer at this point in his career. He's an elite receiver with Romo.

Let’s look at what Austin has done with his old scout team buddy. He’s had at least 100 yards in half of the last dozen full games by Romo. He’s been over 90 yards in three of the other six games in that sample. Austin has averaged 101.4 yards in those games.

So it seems like a pretty safe bet that Austin will crack triple digits against a San Francisco team that ranked in the bottom third in pass defense last season.

Five-star answer: No 100-yard game for Austin

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
9:10
AM ET
This week's question: Is this the week Miles Austin gets 100 receiving yards?

Miles Austin is an excellent receiver and there will be stretches where the Cowboys will lean on him to carry the offense. But with Dez Bryant emerging and Jason Witten continuing to be a force, 100-yard games for Austin will be difficult to obtain.

At least this week against the 49ers, Austin most likely won't get a 100-yard game. The 49ers had seven pass breakups in the Week 1 victory over the Seattle Seahawks last week and cornerback Carlos Rogers is a big defender at 6-foot, 192 pounds who will be physical with Austin.

The Cowboys' young offensive line is still improving and there were times last week when Tony Romo had to rush throws due to pressure. Austin is at his best on those slants where he can use his speed to get away from defenders and he's strong enough to break tackles to get down field. Austin's yards-after-catch numbers should get better as the season progresses because once the offensive line finds a groove, Romo will have more time to connect with his No. 1 receiver.

Bryant is more talented than Austin, but not as polished. Austin knows how to run routes correctly and is able to adjust more on the fly when the defense makes coverage changes. Bryant is still learning that aspect of the game. Yet, the Cowboys will still make attempts to get Bryant the ball because he's so explosive.

Austin is very good, but his time will come soon.

Five-star answer: Go to bank with Austin

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
9:05
AM ET
This week's question: Is this the week Miles Austin gets 100 receiving yards?

If Seattle’s Doug Baldwin can put up 83 yards and a touchdown on four catches from Tarvaris Jackson in the season opener, then, yes, Miles Austin will have more than 100 yards against San Francisco in Week 2.

But from this question I get the sense that there might be some questioning of Austin already. Really?

Yes, Austin has only two 100-yard efforts in the last 13 games. But for 11 of those games, Jon Kitna was the Cowboys’ quarterback. Kitna could not press the ball down the field like Tony Romo can, so naturally Austin’s yardage went down. Austin is a deep-ball threat on the outside and a run-after-catch threat when he is in the slot. Kitna said he had never had an X receiver like Austin last year so it was hard for him to adjust.

In the last 19 games in which Romo has started and finished, Austin has 117 catches for 1,896 yards and eight 100-yard games. Yes, you would like to hit on better than 5-of-9 targets, but 90 yards (plus a touchdown) against a New York Jets secondary with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie in Week 1 isn’t too shabby, is it?

San Francisco’s top three corners are Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock. We all remember Rogers from his Washington days. Brown, the UT-ex, and Brock might be fine players, but I’ll take my chances on Austin this week.
This week's question: Is this the week Miles Austin gets 100 receiving yards?

Tony Romo likes to spread the ball around and Austin is still hampered by his strained hamstring, so surpassing the 100-yard mark seems like a long shot.

Austin had a 100 yards receiving in eight of the first 15 games he started. Since then, he’s done it only twice. In fact, he’s had more than 70 yards receiving just three times in the past 12 games.

Some of that can be blamed on Romo’s injury because Austin didn’t have the same rapport with Jon Kitna. It can also be attributed to Austin getting considerably more attention from defensive backs and defensive coordinators after earning a trip to the Pro Bowl and a contract that made him among the game’s highest-paid receivers.

Romo directed nine passes to Austin against the Jets. As Austin gets healthier, expect that number to increase and expect the number of deep posts and go routes to increase as well. When they do, the 100-yard games will occur more frequently.

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