Running the Numbers: Who Will Play the Slot in 2012?

Jonathan Bales

There’s a lot of talk about who will win the No. 3 receiver job in Dallas this season, and everyone is looking for the next Wes Welker. The Cowboys have some small, quick players Dwayne Harris and Danny Coale, a duo that might be battling each other for one roster spot.

Instead of forcing a particular type of player into a specific role, I think the Cowboys should line up with the three best receivers on the field, regardless of their skill sets. If Andre Holmes proves he’s the third-best option on the offense, he should play in three-receiver sets.

The reason for this is that the Cowboys have a ton of flexibility with Miles Austin. In my latest post at, I explain why Austin is basically already the Cowboys’ slot receiver.

In three-receiver sets, the Cowboys have moved Austin into the slot more and more over the years. In 2009, I tracked Austin as playing 15.5 percent of his snaps in the slot. In 2010, it jumped to 32.4 percent. Last season, Austin actually played inside 44.0 percent of the snaps he was on the field. Of his 72 targets, 62.5 percent came when he lined up in the slot. That’s full-time slot duty.

So when you’re trying to predict the Cowboys’ 53-man roster this year, don’t force a guy in there simply because he has “prototypical” slot receiver skills. Jason Garrett will play the top three options, and at this point, my money is one Austin, Bryant, and Holmes.