The Dallas Cowboys have missed Miles Austin more than most fans think.
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off of their bye week and are getting healthier. Although most of the emphasis on the players Dallas will get back is on defense, perhaps it gets lost that a key piece is coming back on offense, wide receiver Miles Austin.
Some Cowboys fans might not like to admit it because of their frustration over his injury history but Austin plays a huge role in the offense and his return will make a big difference. Squawk all you want but the numbers don't lie; the Cowboys are 4-1 when Miles Austin suits up and plays. Now he has come up empty on the stat sheet in two of the games he played in but Dallas won both of those games that he toughed out.
Austin's impact goes beyond just his statistics because his presence on the field makes it possible for other receivers on the Cowboys to get more opportunities to make plays. When Austin plays, Dez Bryant averages more targets and catches per game than when Austin misses a game. In the five games that Austin has played, Bryant has been targeted 52 times and caught 30 passes thrown his way. Compare that to being thrown at just 38 times and catching just 22 passes in the five games Austin has missed and we can see that Austin clearly eases the coverage opposing teams use against Bryant.
The math makes it easy to see that despite how healthy Miles Austin is, when he plays the Cowboys get more opportunities to get the ball to their best player on offense in Bryant. Austin makes defenses account for him in ways that they don't with rookie Terrance Williams. It isn't a knock on Williams but he is a rookie and he still has a learning curve, whereas Austin has seen almost any coverage a defense can throw at him and can adjust much better to what he's seeing. Defenses know that if they don't pay enough attention to Austin, he's more capable of beating them than Williams is.
Austin is also Tony Romo's most trusted receiver and Romo knows that if the defense focuses too much on Dez Bryant, he can find an open Miles Austin. The two have been playing together for a long time and there is no wide receiver on the offense that Romo trusts more than Austin. Go back to the opening game of the season and remember how important Austin was for the Dallas offense when he caught 10 passes for 72 yards against the same New York Giants the Cowboys face off against this week. If the Giants double cover Bryant, then Austin could have another big day to help keep the Cowboys offense on the field.
In fact, with Austin in the lineup, Dallas converts on just over 35% of their third downs, which is an improvement on the 32.8% they have averaged this season. Without him on third downs, they convert a little over 29% of the time. It might look like a small margin but when it comes to keeping a good offense on the field, it can make a big difference. It also keeps a beat up Cowboys defense off of the field and helps keep them fresh for the whole game.
No matter how you look at it one thing is clear, the Dallas Cowboys offense has missed Miles Austin in their lineup. Getting Austin back will make a difference for their offense, and it could not have come at a better time.
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