ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 26: Wide receiver Miles Austin #19 of the Dallas Cowboys is tackled by Chris Johnson #37 of the Oakland Raiders at Cowboys Stadium on November 26, 2009 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
The Dallas Cowboys 24-7 win on Thanksgiving Day, over the woeful Oakland Raiders, only served to reaffirm Austin's abilities, and, indeed, what he can mean to the Dallas offense. As Jean-Jacques Taylor argues, in today's Dallas Morning News, many believe that Austin should be at the epicenter of the passing game; and maybe he should.
But one should tread carefully the line between making him the top priority in the passing game, and making him the top priority on offense, as a whole; particularly when discussing a Jason Garrett-led attack.
This isn't to devalue what Austin's emergence has meant to Dallas, or even to say that the basic argument made by Taylor is wrong; it isn't, really. The report cites a statistic, though, which is partially misleading: that in games when Austin has 100 or more yards receiving, the Cowboys are 3-0 and averaging 29.0 points.
Granted, this is true and no one (that I know) would care to argue with the fact that getting the ball to Austin is a good thing; but it is not merely the Miles Austin Show that means a solid offensive performance for Dallas, and it might not even be the preeminent factor in such showings. Consider the three games in which Austin has exceeded the 100 yard watermark:
Week five, at Kansas City--Austin has a record-breaking coming-out party, putting up ten catches, for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Dallas also ran the ball 32 times, for 125 yards.
Week seven, against Atlanta--Austin follows up his record-breaking day with a six-catch, 171 yard, two-touchdown day. Marion Barber and Tashard Choice combined for 23 carries, 145 yards and a touchdown.
Week twelve, against Oakland--Austin goes for seven catches, 145 yards and a touchdown in a laugher. Barber, Choice and Felix Jones are all involved, combining for 24 carries, 196 yards and a touchdown. The ball is distributed between the three beautifully, and each runner has between 60- and 68-yards rushing.
Notice a trend, here?
Of course, the big-play threat is one necessary to today's NFL franchise; this doesn't mean that the old and kind of cliched establish-the-run-first truism has lost any merit along the way. Get Austin the ball and you will win? Perhaps. But Austin's involvement, to say nothing of a healthy offense in general, hinges on establishing the run. And with the stable of running backs like that in Dallas, this should be at this point--like the statement that Austin is the Cowboys greatest receiving threat--obvious.