Dallas Cowboys: Why Miles Austin Can Return as Romo's Top Target

Chris HummerAnalyst IAugust 20, 2012

NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 19:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys is seen on the field alongside Miles Austin #19 prior to the start of the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on December 19, 2009 in New Oleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

In the NFL familiarity breeds productivity, and that's why Miles Austin will return as Tony Romo's top target for the Dallas Cowboys this season.

In 2010 Austin burst onto the scene for Dallas with one of the greatest single-game performances in Cowboys' history. He reeled in 10 catches for 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns spurring the Boys to an overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

From that moment on, Austin became Romo's go-to wideout.

His 6'2", 217-pound frame makes him a tough matchup for any cornerback. Couple that with his speed and leaping ability, and he becomes a dangerous receiver in the red zone.

The only thing that's held him back in Dallas is a pair of pesky hamstrings that would be more at home on a 48-year-old headband-wearing baller at your local YMCA. His hamstrings cost him six games last season, and he's already sat out of most of training camp because of a strain.

Now, it looks as if he will miss the entire preseason to ensure a full recovery and hopefully curb future issues.

This may sound like bad news for Austin, but it will turn out to be a great thing. He'll be well rested by the time he lines up against the Giants for the season opener and will be prepared as possible to deal with the rigors of a 16-game schedule.

Plus, he really doesn't need the time on the field to develop a rapport with Romo. The pair have been dialed in since Austin's first NFL start, and behind Jason Witten, he's always been the guy Romo looks to in the clutch.

And boy, will Romo need to lean on him this year.

Behind Austin, there's the explosive yet volatile Dez Bryant, who's dealing with his own set of injury issues at the moment.

After Bryant, the Cowboys feature a myriad of young, unproven receivers competing to fill the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 slots. So, it's not exactly like Romo has a bevy of playmakers on the outside to rely on.

To make things even worse for Dallas, "Mr. Reliable," Jason Witten is a question mark after he suffered a slightly lacerated spleen in last week's preseason matchup with the Oakland Raiders.

A spleen isn't a normal injury either; internal organs and carry a huge amount of risk if they aren't given time to heal properly. There is no real timetable for his return, and the Cowboys won't gamble by placing him back on the field until he's fully healed. Head coach Jason Garrett said (via ESPN):

We've just got to make sure he heals as well as possible as quickly as possible. You can imagine spleens are internal organs, and they're serious injuries involved with those things. Asking Jason Witten to be still and idle is a hard thing. That's the biggest challenge right now, but he has to do that. He has to let time heal it.

This means Romo's safety blanket is questionable for the regular season, which will force him to look towards the player he trusts most left on the field—Austin.

Austin is a two-time Pro Bowler, a downfield threat and, most importantly, a playmaker.

He goes up and grabs jump balls, isn't afraid to work in the middle of the field and eats up yardage after the catch with his powerful running back-like gait.

But, perhaps his most valuable attribute, to Romo and the Cowboys, is his versatility.

Austin has the ability to line up on the outside and make plays, but he's also the rare star wideout who excels when he's placed in the slot. He runs crisp routes in the middle of the field, and his fearlessness allows him to make chain-moving catches on slant and post routes.

These skills give Romo time to comfortably scan the field with the mindset that Austin will always be in the proper spot when he needs to get rid of the ball.

His skill set will allow Austin to have a huge season, and add that to the battered group of skill players around Romo, and Austin should return to Pro Bowl-form.