Austin has earned 11 first downs this season, good for third-best on the team even though he has missed the last two games. That tells you two things. It tells you that the team hasn't been as productive as it needs to be with Austin out of the lineup and it tells you how big a role Austin plays when he's healthy enough to get on the field.
He's finally done that. Austin was back at practice on Monday, ending his long stay on the sideline with the hamstring injury that he picked up in the preseason and aggravated against the 49ers in Week Two.
The domino effect should be a big one for the Cowboys. Austin will give Tony Romo another option to throw to outside of the opposition and he should also open up more of the field for Dez Bryant. No offense to Laurent Robinson, who did a nice job against the Lions, but defenses weren't really afraid of letting anyone but Bryant beat them the last two weeks.
That will change with Austin back on the other side of the field. There's also a chance that the addition of another weapon in the passing game will free things up for the running game.
Lest you think that Austin's addition will be some miracle cure to all that ails the Cowboys, he won't be able to keep Romo from making brutal mistakes late in games. Only Romo will be able to do that, unless the team comes up with a scheme that places the receiver under center when they take leads into the fourth quarter.
That seems unlikely, but Austin's return is a good thing all the same. The NFC East is wide open and the Cowboys will finally have a full complement of weapons at the ready to make a run at winning it.