Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin finally returned to the lineup following the Week 11 bye, and he’s picked up right where he left off…by being a major non-factor. Austin was targeted five times in yesterday’s 31-24 win over the Oakland Raiders, and yet he was only able to come away with one reception on those five targets. That’s a horrible percentage, and Tony Romo averaged just 3.6 yards per attempt when throwing it to Austin (his reception went for 18 yards).
It’s been a very disappointing season for Austin overall, as he has dealt with yet another significant hamstring injury this year and has been ineffective even when healthy. Austin first injured his hamstring in Week 3 against the St. Louis Rams, and the Cowboys held him out of the next two games. Upon his return, Austin was so bad for two games that he didn’t even secure a catch and was immediately shut down for several weeks due to the injury and his poor play. The Cowboys were optimistic that the bye week would do Austin some good, but it appears that the issues go beyond mere injury.
And that’s when the Cowboys have to be very concerned, because they really do need Austin to be effective. Terrance Williams has been great for a rookie, but that’s the thing- he’s a very raw rookie. Williams is as good as anyone at getting vertical and making big plays, but he lacks the consistency to be the No. 2 receiver in the Cowboys offense. Romo has plenty of weapons to throw it to, but the Cowboys need to have many weapons in the passing game in order to make up for an awful pass defense. They need to have a vast array of targets in the passing game, because they need a high-powered offense in order to stay in games against other high-powered offense (see the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints games as evidence of the pass defense struggling mightily).
So Austin needs to start playing well again, but the worry is that he may never be a legitimate receiver. It’s likely overreacting, but he’s just been that bad. I mean, you can’t come away with just one reception on five targets in a favorable matchup and expect all to be well the day after. It’s not like this is a first-time thing with Austin, this has been a repeat occurrence this season. He doesn’t have to be great, but the Cowboys either need him to be solid or they need Williams to capture lightning in a bottle like he did earlier this year when Austin went down with the hamstring injury.