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Spotlight: Miles Austin

posted by Steve Holloway on Jul 31st


Steve Holloway's thoughts

Setting the Stage
Miles Austin was a three-sport athlete at Garfield High School in his native New Jersey, playing basketball, football and running track. He also played both sides of the ball in high school, but focused on the wide receiver position. He later attended Monmouth, a member school in the Northeast Conference and NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. He played all four years and started 30 games. He totaled 150 receptions for 2,867 yards (19.1 ypc) and he scored 33 TDs. He set school and conference career receiving records. Even though he was playing in the lower division of the NCAA, he attracted some attention from NFL scouts and received an invitation to the 2006 NFL Combine.

He displayed solid wide receiver skills at the combine and also ran a 4.47 second 40-yard dash. Most impressive of his measurable was perhaps his 40.5-inch vertical. Despite the solid production in the smaller college and his overall good showing at the combine, he was not drafted. Shortly after the draft, he signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Austin's current career statistics are provided below. He spent three long years working hard to raise his standing on the team and when Terrell Owens departed after the 2008 season, Austin was ready to take advantage. His long years of work validate him as the type of person that prepares for and possibly even makes his own opportunities.

Year Gms Tgts Recs Catch% RecYds YPR TDs Rank
06 9 0 0 0 0 0 0
07 16 10 5 50.0 76 15.2 0 145
08 12 23 13 56.5 278 21.4 3 85
09 16 124 81 65.3 1,320 16.3 11 3
10 16 119 69 58.0 1,041 15.1 7 12
11 10 73 43 58.9 579 13.5 7 42
Totals 79 349 211 60.5 3,206 15.6 28

Most expected Austin to immediately shift to a reduced more complementary receiver role after the Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant as the 24th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Yet, for the past two seasons Austin has continued to equal Bryant's production for their first two seasons together.

Looking Forward to 2012
The Cowboys hired Bill Callahan as their offensive coordinator and he replaced Jason Garrett, who provided the dual role of head coach and offensive coordinator last year. Callahan was the offensive line coach for the New York Jets in 2011. The Cowboys hope that his skills developing offensive line play will benefit the team greatly. The Footballguys.com offensive line ranking by Matt Bitonti has the Cowboys squarely at the bottom of the league, as they are ranked 32nd.

The Cowboys have long been a team that relies on the passing game productivity and Tony Romo has been very successful for the team during his six years as their starter. They seem to be comfortable having their primary offensive focus being on the running game. The chart below compares the play calling differentials between the running and passing games for the Cowboys over the past three seasons. Note that quarterback sacks are not included so the actual number of passing plays is slightly decreased in this comparison.

Year RushPlays Run% PassPlays Pass% TotalPlays
09 436 44.2% 550 55.8% 986
10 426 42.6% 575 57.4% 1,001
11 408 41.7% 570 58.3% 978
Totals 1,270 42.8% 1695 57.2% 2,965

The Cowboys will continue to pass the ball this season and use their strengths. Besides Austin and Bryant at wide receiver, they also have the reliable Jason Witten at tight end. Each of these three players have the potential to produce a 1,000 yard receiving season. Their running backs, DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones have neither shown the ability to remain healthy for a full season, so that may also play a role in the team's dependency on the passing game.

Positives

  • Excellent quarterback play from Romo, who is capable of finding the open receiver
  • Traditional focus on the passing game provides Austin plenty of opportunities
  • Strong receiver on the other side of field and at tight end reduce the double-teams
  • Lack of depth behind these three should maximize their playing time and targets

Negatives

  • Dez Bryant could actually improve his motivation and become the top flight wide receiver that everyone thinks he is capable of
  • If the above situation comes to fruition, Austin's targets could be reduced

Final thoughts

Austin signed a seven-year contract with the team in 2010 for $57 Million with $18 Million guaranteed. His future contract amounts for the next four years are all reasonable (between $1.2 M and $6.9 M) so it seems very likely that he will be a Cowboy for several more years.

Austin is currently being drafted as WR17 and 44 overall. His most recent two seasons when he played all 16 games (09 and 10), he finished as WR3 and WR12 so there is opportunity for value drafting him at his current ADP.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

FF Ninja said:

Miles Austin is a really tough guy to project this year. I forget what his average stats were from 2009 and 2010 while in the starting lineup with Romo. I think it averaged out to a 16g average of something like 105/1690/15. Crazy stupid numbers. But his numbers dropped off last year and it is hard to pinpoint why. Was it the recurring hamstring injury? Were they limiting the number of snaps he played? Did Romo just start to like throwing to Robinson and Bryant more? Really hard to tell what was going on, but his target numbers never got above 8 after week 6 despite averaging 8.7 between week 5 and 19 of 2009 and 10.25 in 4 games with Romo in 2010. If someone could come up with a game log with # of snaps played for 2009, 2010, and 2011 I think that would be very helpful (or just provide a link to where I can find this).

In the meantime, a projection would just be worthless conjecture without some stats to back them up, but I'm going to guess that Austin outpeforms his ADP of 45 (WR18). Bryant's involvement is of course a wildcard here, but the loss of Robinson should return a lot of targets to Miles. The Cowboys threw the ball 570 times last year, completing 376 - 83 to RBs, 111 to TEs, and 182 to WRs. It is worth noting that in 2010, with mostly Kitna throwing to him, his numbers were as follows: 119 targets, 69 rec, 1041 yds (15.1 ypr), 7 TD for a finish of WR12.

tombonneau said:

Last year he was hurt and then Robinson emerged so it was kind of an imperfect storm. This kind of reminds me of the old Harrison/Wayne dynamic with Dez obviously being the new guy who is "going to overpass the old guy this year" and then it never really happens sooner than you think and the new guy is overdrafted while the old guy is underdrafted. I think if healthy he still produces like a low end WR1 that you can get as a WR2. Throw in a late August preseason highlight catch by Dez and his value increases even more.

Jersey Jammer said:

1) In the past 3 years Romo has played in 42 games (excluding week 16 last year where he had 2 attempts) and only had zero TDs in 4 of them (68 TDs in total). 2) I think a conservative estimate for him this year is 30. Where will they go?

F Jones/Murray - 2 Max?
Witten - 6 Max?
Ogletree - 3 Max?
Others - 2 Max?

If the above are close, that leaves 17 unaccounted for, a decent number across these two guys, pretty good considering it means you've waited until the 3rd round to get your #1 WR.


Miles Austin projections

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Steve Holloway781209900
Message board consensus8512021000