Sunday, November 1, 2009
WRs Austin, Crayton shine in new roles
By Tim MacMahon
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Who cares about communication? Results take rank.
The decision made by the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff to give Patrick Crayton's starting job to Miles Austin couldn't be working out much better.
Austin has emerged as a star. Crayton is thriving in a complementary role. The Cowboys are winning convincingly.
It was an obvious move to make Austin a starter after his franchise-record 250-yard performance, but Crayton took offense to not being told about the decision by a coach. Head coach Wade Phillips claimed Crayton was informed of the move during a meeting, but everybody has moved on from the he-said, he-said.
Crayton doesn't pout. He produces. He's matched Austin's total the past two weeks with three touchdowns, sealing both wins with punt returns for scores.
"It's never even been a thought of mine that Patrick Crayton wouldn't walk out there and play like he'd just been named to the Pro Bowl," owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. "On any given play, I think he'll play that way. From my standpoint, thinking about this team, we shouldn't walk on eggshells over that kind of issue. That's not the point here. The point is that we're all lucky to be here."
Crayton, who was untouched until he stiff-armed the Seattle punter on his 82-yard return, wasn't even supposed to be returning punts. He lost that job to recently signed Allen Rossum, only to get it back when Rossum pulled his hamstring during his Cowboys debut.
Don't expect Crayton to be demoted again after the way he's seized this opportunity.
"Week in and week out, you've got to prove yourself," said Crayton, who had three catches for 39 yards against the Seahawks. "If you don't, they'll find somebody else. My job is to do whatever they ask me to do, plain and simple. I'm not going to ever lose confidence in myself and hopefully they don't, either."
Austin didn't continue at his historic 200-plus-yards-per-start pace in Sunday's 38-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks. But he provided further evidence that he's the legitimate No. 1 receiver the Cowboys needed to step up when they got rid of Terrell Owens.
Tony Romo threw to Austin nine times. He caught five passes for 61 yards and a touchdown, his fifth score in three games. He also drew a pair of third-down pass interference penalties on Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant, extending touchdown drives.
"Teams are worried about him," tight end Jason Witten said. "He can score at any point on the field. What he's done is added himself as a huge weapon in our offense."
Austin insists he's the same player now that he was in September, before he became a celebrity and hot commodity in fantasy football leagues. He shoots down a question about his confidence soaring despite setting an NFL record for the most receiving yards (482) in a player's first three starts.
"I'm just getting more balls thrown my way," Austin said. "It's making me more alert, and I'm ready for an opportunity any time it rears its pretty head."
Crayton could say the same thing. They've made a communication-challenged coaching staff look smart in the past couple of weeks.
Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.