One game into the Cowboys’ season and one thing is abundantly clear: Dez Bryant needs to be mature and Miles Austin needs to be ready.
As did the New York Giants, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the rest of the NFL when they face the Dallas Cowboys, will focus their attention on Bryant. The Giants always had a safety lurking behind a cornerback in front of Bryant, in what amounted to double-coverage. Bryant held his composure, and managed his frustration, during a minimally impactful four-catch night.
“Hey, I got my stats through Witt, through Miles, through Tony and the rest of the other guys,” Bryant said. “The Giants respected me. Everybody across this world knows what I can do. And they know, if the ball is thrown my way, I’m going to get to it. I don’t care if it’s double-coverage, triple or whatever. But we play smart football here. We want to win.”
The attention to Bryant and future Hall-of-Fame tight end Jason Witten spawns an obvious byproduct: Miles is open.
Allowed single-coverage, Austin caught as many first downs as Bryant had total catches, and his 10 grabs were third-most on NFL’s opening weekend behind only Anquan Boldin and Andre Johnson. It was great to see Austin back. It’s imperative that his hamstrings remain healthy and his production stays aloft.
And not a better place to continue the trend than back where it all started.
In 2009, Austin was the Cowboys’ third receiver until starter Roy Williams was injured entering Week 5 at Kansas City. So how did Austin respond in his first NFL start on Oct. 11, 2009?
With a franchise record 250 yards on 10 catches and two touchdowns, including the 60-yarder that gave Dallas a 26-20 victory.
Austin went on to catch 81 passes for 1,320 yards and 11 scores in making the Pro Bowl. And, it’s been all downhill since.
Since that breakout game/season, Austin hasn’t approached 70 catches or caught more than seven touchdowns. His stats and impact yell third receiver, while the six-year, $57 million contract he received in 2010 screams elite receiver.
Against the Giants, Austin seemed to have his first-step burst back. We know Bryant and Witten will get their catches. If the Cowboys are to exceed expectations, Austin has to return to the days when he got his as well.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at DFWSportatorium.com and lives in McKinney with his fiancee, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.