Over at DallasCowboys.com, I projected Miles Austin’s stats for the season.
One of the keys to projecting Austin’s production is understanding where he positions himself on the field. As I mentioned in a previous article, Austin lined up in the slot on 44 percent of his snaps in 2011. Since the Cowboys used three-plus receiver sets on only 42 percent of their plays last season, you can see Austin is now the Cowboys’ full-time slot receiver (if you’re wondering, Austin’s slot rate is higher than the overall team rate of three-receiver sets because Austin often lines up in the slot in base packages with tight end Jason Witten outside).
Austin’s increase in snaps in the slot last year is reflected in his stats; in 2011, the average length of a pass to Austin was only 10.9 yards, ranking him just 90th in the NFL among wide receivers. Austin also posted only 13.5 yards-per-reception – down over two yards from his career mark of 15.6.
Read the whole post to find out why Austin may not reach 1,000 yards even if he stays healthy in 2012.
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 DallasCowboys.com, 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.
Miles Austin is in the building. The up-and-coming wide receiver has joined his teammates at Valley Ranch this week for voluntary workouts. Surprisingly, he said his absence was not contract-related:
“I was out in L.A. working,” Austin said. “To be honest, I was really working hard. I came back the lightest I’ve ever been, in shape already. I’m feeling really good and looking forward to the year.”
Austin continued, “Not a power play, nothing like that at all. It just came down to when I was working out there, I was really buying into the workouts. Not only was I working out with a personal trainer, but I was running hills, running Runyan [Canyon], a lot of things.”
Austin apparently wasn’t lying about working hard–he is currently only 207 pounds. While the lighter frame could help his speed, we are worried that it might hinder Austin’s ability to break tackles.
Austin weighed around 214 pounds last season, but players generally enter the season at a lower weight than offseason workouts. Austin may have weighed 217 or more at this time last year. Also, don’t forget he figures to lose a few pounds during training camp.
Is this 7-10 pounds of weight loss going to make Austin that much faster? After all, how much faster can the guy really get?
Still, we trust Austin is doing the right thing. The organization is surely aware of Austin’s weight loss. Perhaps his new slimmer body will allow him to be quicker in small areas, providing him the benefit of not having to break as many tackles.
Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree Playing
Demarcus Ware Wired