IRVING, Texas -- Last season, Miles Austin emerged as one of the top players in the league. The wide receiver finished with career-highs in catches (81), yards (1,320) and touchdowns (11).
It earned him a Pro Bowl berth, the first of his career, and the Cowboys rewarded the undrafted receiver from Monmouth University with a six-year contract extension worth $54 million before the start of the 2010 season.
The numbers this season haven't been as good. Austin has 67 catches for 979 yards with seven touchdowns. In some ways it's almost hard to duplicate what he did last season. Defenses are concentrating on Austin with double-coverages and the such.
Austin doesn't want to speculate as to what defenses see in him to draw more attention, but he admits he could perform better.
"That’s not my concern; my main concern is winning and losing ball games," Austin said. "So could I have done better things this year? Yeah, I agree with that. Could I have done better things last year? Probably as well."
When asked why his numbers are down and his overall impact on the season hasn't been the same, he repiled, "We were just working better as a team. We just working better."
Austin has a team-leading 10 drops on the season, according to Stats Inc., which ties him for fourth in the league. Last season, Roy E. Williams led the Cowboys with 10 drops. Terrell Owens led the team with 17 drops in 2006. It isn't known if any other Cowboys receiver, in the history of the franchise, has ever had more drops than Owens.
"I don’t know," Austin said of the drops. "I'm not focused on that. I'm focused on the next game. Austin is getting more balls thrown his way than last year when he emerged after an injury to Williams placed him in the starting lineup.
To combat the drops, Austin worked on catching the ball without gloves in practice, which forces him to watch the ball go into his hands and makes him grip it.
In terms of dominating games, the Cowboys are 0-5 when he has over 100 receiving yards. Last season, Dallas went 4-1 when he hit the century mark.
When the Cowboys are ahead, Austin has just 11 catches for 162 yards and four touchdowns. But in games where his team trails, he's got 48 catches for 734 yards with three touchdowns.
His dominance is lacking this year.
"He's done a nice job developing as a route runner," interim coach Jason Garrett said. "I think he can still improve in that area, but he's running routes outside, he's running routes inside, he's running routes in a lot of different kinds of individual cuts. So he can get better in all phases and what we like about Miles Austin is that he's a talented guy, but he comes to work every day and it's important to him."
Austin is a playmaker in the Cowboys' offense who needs to get the ball. He probably gets lost sometimes due to the play call, the quarterbacks getting the ball elsewhere, the defensive coverages and his own inability to get open.
"My main goal is to win games," Austin said. "I didn’t have my best year this year."