The VRR: Potential at WR Goes Through Miles Austin; Cowboys Have Biggest Fan Base

The Cowboys' wide receiver position has definitely seen its fair share of media attention this offseason. Its point of emphasis always seems to build around the who-is-going-to-replace-T.O. theory. Other than spending a seventh-round pick on Manny Johnson, the team has stuck to a plan of building the position from within.

Dallas will depend on players such as Roy Williams and Miles Austin living up to their potential. Unless something drastic happens, Williams will be the starter. It is Austin who can make the position dynamic.

While JJT focuses the pressure of playing wide receiver for the Cowboys on Williams, NFP's Matt Bowen looks at  Austin as the guy who really needs to progress.

Miles Austin was strictly a deep-ball receiver in 2008 and finished the season averaging more than 21 yards a catch for the Cowboys – but that was on only 13 receptions. We can talk all we want about how he’ll step into the No. 3 role for the Cowboys, but until we see him develop into a third-down receiver who can also contribute in the intermediate passing game, he’s still question mark – and not a sure thing yet in my mind.

The Cowboys are counting on Jason Witten, Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton to make up for the loss of production from the departed Terrell Owens, but this is a huge training camp for Austin because his role will dramatically increase. If he’s nothing more than a deep threat, then the Cowboys will struggle on third downs. However, if he can develop his overall game, they’ll forget quickly about T.O.

We know Austin can run down the field, but we don’t know what else he provides. Training camp will be the first time he’s asked to provide more than a big play to this offense.

Obviously, Austin has to stay healthy through camp and preseason. If he does, the experience he gains could further his development enough to start against Tampa, or at the very least, solidify himself as the third guy.

More VRR after the jump.

The aforementioned WR Manny Johnson is looking forward to training camp.

"I feel good. I just want to stay in shape while I have these two weeks off going into camp," Johnson said. "I think everybody starts on the same slate, so whoever impresses coaches at training camp will go from there."

He's also looking forward to seeing Stephen Hodge on the other side of the field again.

Johnson will join former Tatum and TCU standout Stephen Hodge, a sixth-round Dallas pick, at Cowboys training camp in San Antonio. The experience is yet another the duo will have shared over the years.

"We've played against each other since the seventh grade. Most people go in where they got drafted not knowing many people, but me and him have known each other for a long time, so at least we had somebody there that we knew and could be a little more comfortable with," Johnson said. "We're both from East Texas. Everybody (with the Cowboys) I'm sure knows we're from East Texas because we talk about it all the time."

No, Asaph Schwapp is not a ninja, but the rookie free-agent fullback is one strong dude. It will be interesting to see how his strength translates onto the field in training camp. Here's part of the Q & A he did recently with the Star-T:

What do you need to do to make this team?

Again, it’s more of a learning period right now and all of the physical aspects take place during fall camp. I just have to try as hard as I can to make this team and just do whatever I do best, which is blocking and special teams.

Have you been able to show off your strength yet?

We don’t have any pads on yet so I can’t really hit anybody or anything like that. I mean we work out and I’ve impressed people with the numbers I put up on the bench, but nothing too serious.

S.A. Express-News' Tom Orsborn explores the pros and cons of training camp.

The Dallas Cowboys: You either love 'em or hate 'em. Apparently, that statement is true. A recent ESPN SportsNation poll resulted in the Cowboys (36%) edging out the Patriots (34%) as the NFL's most hated team. Um, did we ever cheat? The good news: the Cowboys have the biggest fan base at 22%. The Steelers (20%) come in at a close second. Ha!

Another SportsNation fan poll predicts that RB Felix Jones will have a breakout year.

The Cowboys' running back commanded 37 percent of more than 24,000 votes when SportsNation asked which emerging NFC player would enjoy a breakout season in 2009. Percy Harvin (24 percent), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (22 percent) and Pierre Thomas (18 percent) rounded out the voting.

Mike Freeman, a columnist at CBSSports, hops on the anti-Bennett bandwagon.

Bennett says the video was just "all fun and games".

In other non-football football news, I like thought that you all would like to know that Jessica Simpson canceled her Ken and Barbie-themed birthday party. Okay...so, either this sounds like 'splitsville' is for real, or like Romo just didn't want to chance having to drive around in a pink convertible.

Well, it looks as if Keith Davis will be available to the Cowboys after all - just in case. The Raiders released the veteran safety on Monday.

Raised by educators, Bradie James is helping to give 10 lucky students a chance to succeed academically through his James Gang Back-to-School Jam Pack Contest.

Barry Switzer was honored Tuesday night with the Knights of Columbus John F. Kennedy Community Service Award for his work with the Special Olympics.

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