With all of the other offseason news, wide receiver Miles Austin is kind of "flying" under the radar. Will the Cowboys' UDFA wide receiver have rebound and have a strong season in 2012?
Miles Austin is one of the best stories in the NFL. America loves to root for the underdog, and Miles is one of the most successful players in recent NFL history to go undrafted. From John Randle to Kurt Warner, there have been a handful of players who went undrafted and managed to have storied careers, but it is a rarity to see those types of players ever amount to anything special.
It's pretty amazing to think about, but Austin and quarterback Tony Romo might be the best undrafted quarterback and wide receiver combination in league history. The quarterback and wide receiver positions are considered to be "skill positions", so it's pretty unique when you have two starting players that were passed on by all 32 teams in the NFL Draft.
Former Titans wide receivers coach Ray Sherman (now with the Cowboys) and former Dallas scout Brian Gaine (now assistant director of player personnel for the Dolphins) were the only two people who showed up for Austin's pro day at Monmouth. Bill Parcells loved the fact that Austin was from his old Bergen County neighborhood, but it's not like anyone was standing on the table in the draft room on behalf of the wide receiver. I asked Ireland to tell me who should get the most credit for the Cowboys signing Austin.
"It's always a process," said Ireland, refusing to take the bait. "I was part of that process, but the area scout was also involved. In scouting, you bring things to the bridge and then the group helps you cross that bridge."
Parcells and Austin are both from New Jersey. When Parcells heard about the wide receiver from his hometown area of Bergen County, he went out and offered Austin a chance to make it in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. I want to take a second and give credit to some people that I haven't always talked nicely about, and those men are Jerry Jones and Wade Phillips.
Jones is the general manager and has the final say on basically any decision made in Dallas. Obviously things were a little different when Parcells was here, but we should thank Jerry and give him some credit for Miles Austin. I am very hard on Wade Phillips, but I must give him some credit for keeping the undrafted wide receiver on his roster, especially considering how raw Austin was when he first arrived on the scene. At any time, Wade could have released him for another player, but he obviously saw the talent that Miles possessed and was willing to let him develop on the 53-man roster.
It's possible that the Miles Austin story never would have happened if not for the rib injury that forced Roy Williams to miss that game against the Chiefs. In his first career start, Austin had a record setting game. After that amazing performance, Austin became a starting wide receiver and has never looked back.
Austin is looking to rebound this season after an injury-filled 2011 season. Even though he missed six games with a nagging hamstring injury, he still managed to put up 43 receptions, 579 yards and 7 touchdowns. Laurent Robinson did a great job filling in for him last year, but Miles won't have Robinson to step in for him should he go down to injury this season. That is why it's important that he stays healthy and gets his body in great shape, which is something he may not have done last year due to the lockout.
"Right now I’m working with the trainers at our facility," Austin said during a promotional appearance at a Neiman Marcus store in San Antonio. "I feel like last year I wasn’t prepared for the season the way I should’ve been condition-wise, even though I looked and felt it at the time. That’s one thing that I have to keep an eye on. To make sure I’m in the best physical shape I can be."
Tony Romo isn't so sure that Miles wasn't in shape last year.
"I haven’t talked to Miles, but that would be my guess," Romo said. "I was around Miles and I saw him and he was running all the time. I think what he probably meant to stress was – once again I probably don’t even want to go there because I haven’t talked to him about it – but after seeing it, it’s probably just the football metabolics. You can’t duplicate it."
"Miles is a guy who goes 100 miles per hour or nothing. He’s not a guy who just coasts because it’s the 13th rep. And, so, his greatness is that he never gets tired. He goes and goes and goes and then his body falls apart. That’s what makes him so good, so gifted. From my perspective, he was in shape. He just has to probably understand his body a little bit sometimes. He’s doing that. The guy works so hard. Anybody who talks about his work ethic has no idea about Miles Austin. That’s not him at all."
This year the Cowboys' players finally got a full offseason to workout with strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik. W may not know the specific advantages of having Woicik as the strength and conditioning coach, but we cannot overlook his resume and success during his career in the NFL. If he is all that we have heard, then Woicik could make a huge difference in the health and stamina of our players.
Even though there was some controversy for the missed opportunity in the Giants game that would have sealed a win, and a possible playoff birth, Tony Romo and Miles Austin have always had each others backs and have remained supportive of each other. The missed connection on that third-and-five play could have sent this Cowboys team into a locker room mess, but that never happened because of the close relationship that Romo and Austin have with each other. If the same situation happened with Terrell Owens, oh boy we might have had a serious situation take place.
Now I am a huge Dez Bryant fan, and as many of you know, he is my favorite player. Recently Stephen Jones was very candid and honest (well that isn't very characteristic for a son of Jerry Jones) about his expectations for Bryant going forward.
"Well, I think he needs to be a No. 1 receiver. Not to take anything away from Miles [Austin], but I would submit to you that when we line up out there that the guy that they’re the most worried about is Dez. And he’s got to be that guy, and even when they do try to stop him, the great ones still make a lot of plays. Tony’s got to be able to count on him, he’s got to run the right routes at the right depths and be a precise route runner. Those are the things he’s got to improve on. If he can do those things, then obviously we can really achieve what we want to accomplish, which is win a championship."
That shouldn't be considered a slight towards Miles because when you draft a wide receiver in the first-round of the draft, you want that player to become the best player he can be. You also have to consider that the Cowboys traded up and surrendered draft picks in order to get Bryant. Stephen Jones values Austin very highly and rewarded him with a six-year, $54 million contract back in 2010.
"We all are familiar and admire the way Miles has evolved into the player he is today. We're also very impressed with the person that he is," Stephen Jones said. "I've never felt like when we have made this kind of commitment to any individual that we've ever been as prepared or better informed about what he is as a player and as a person. That's a good feeling and made this very comfortable in terms of getting this done.
"He's what we want to build our franchise around," Jones said.
In my opinion, the loss of Laurent Robinson will hurt us, especially in the depth department at wide receiver. It won't be easy replacing a player who stepped in and played at such a high level that he scored 11 touchdowns for us. If Austin stays healthy, which is a big if, then he should make up for a big chunk of the production we saw from Robinson last year.
Miles is a big play wide receiver who is built like a running back. He is a great route runner who is fantastic with the football in the open field. Garrett has often shifted Austin to the slot when running three wide receiver sets, and Miles has become such a good wide receiver that it doesn't matter who is covering him because he's capable of beating anyone in front of him. The combination of Austin and Bryant are deadly, especially with Romo throwing them the football. If our wide receivers play up to their potential, we could possibly have the best starting wide receivers in the league.
Last Saturday Miles turned 28 years old (happy birthday Miles!) and on his birthday he was attending a football camp with Felix Jones. Miles is just a genuine person who is always willing to participate in charity events and anything to do with children. His character is what makes him so easy to like and root for. We all know that Jason Garrett preaches the "RKG" mantra, and Austin might be the perfect example of that.
Through all the adversity, Miles just keeps on smiling, and when I see that goofy smile on Sunday, I know that the he and the Cowboys had a good day. So BTB community, I ask you, will Miles Austin rebound in 2012? Have at it in the comment section and discuss what we may see from our beloved wide receiver next season. I believe that Austin will bounce back strong and reclaim his spot among the elite wide receivers in the NFL.