Miles Austin was obviously the Cowboys’ best receiver last season, and perhaps the team’s MVP. Who knows where the Cowboys might have finished the year if Austin hadn’t broken out in Kansas City in Week Five?
On Friday, I posted a breakdown of Roy Williams’ 2009 catches, explaining why he was far superior over the middle of the field as compared to the sides. Today, I’ll do the same for Miles Austin.
Recently, coach Wade Phillips has insinuated that Austin might be the Cowboys’ primary slot receiver in three-receiver sets. At the very least, he is going to see far more action there than he did in 2009.
I think the move to slot receiver is a good one. Austin is already a quick cat and he’s lost nearly 10 pounds off of last year’s playing weight.
A quicker Miles Austin? Uh oh.
Now, of course Austin will not be in the slot all the time, even in three-receiver sets. The best solution, I believe, is to rotate different players into the slot at different times (including Patrick Crayton). In crucial third downs, for example, it may be best to roll with the reliable Crayton inside while utilizing Austin’s play-making ability if the offense is seeking the “home run.”
In addition, moving players around the football field through both pre-snap alignment and motion could also make it easier for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to create mismatches. Austin or Felix Jones on a linebacker? Yes, please.
As you can see in the graph above, Austin flourished over the middle in 2009. He averaged a gaudy 11.43 yards-per-attempt and caught 70.0 percent of balls thrown his way. Now, as mentioned in the analysis of Williams’ receptions, impressive numbers over the middle don’t necessarily translate to superb slot play.
At the very least, we know Austin isn’t afraid to go inside and take a shot from the big boys. As long as he is able to maintain his strength and toughness despite losing some weight, he should be excellent in the slot for the Cowboys this season.