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Cowboys Wide Receivers: By The Numbers

If the numbers don't lie, then Miles Austin's return from his most recent periodic hamstring issue is not a big deal for Dallas.

The replacement?
The replacement?
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

This week's big injury story for the Dallas Cowboys has been the status of DeMarcus Ware and DeMarco Murray. They have both gone from "definitely" out for the upcoming game against the Philadelphia Eagles, to doubtful, game day decisions. (Oddly enough, Michael Vick has gone through a similar change in status. Unlike them, he came out and said he was not playing before his status was released as questionable, or 50/50.) This is much better than the original prognoses, even though the team is likely to be cautious and keep one or both of them on the sidelines rather than risk further injury.

Lost in the drama and speculation about the two "DeMars" is the fact that Miles Austin and his infamous hamstring were rested the past two days in practice. Head coach Jason Garrett insists there was no setback and that he is ready to go.

"Just watching him and seeing how he's doing coming back off the injury and making sure we're doing the right things, and rest is part of the equation for him, as it would be for anybody," Garrett said.

Nonetheless, I don't think it would be too surprising if Austin wound up a healthy scratch. Just to protect his hammy.

Or maybe just because the Cowboys can do without him.

Nick Eatman started making a case for this (although not overtly) in his article at about how rookie Terrance Williams and second-year UDFA Cole Beasley have the two highest completion percentages for balls targeted at them.

Not on the team. In the entire NFL.

That caught my eye, and I decided to dig a little deeper into the numbers. I pulled up the individual stats for wide receivers at ESPN and put some pertinent numbers for all five of the Cowboys wideouts into a table.

Receiver Receptions Targets
Percent Yards YPC TDs 1st Down 1D Percent
Dez Bryant
34 54 62.9 459 13.5 6 26 48.1
Miles Austin
15 25 60 125 8.3 0 7 28.0
Terrance Williams
18 21 85.7 309 17.2 2 13 61.9
Cole Beasley
12 14 85.7 114 9.5 1 7 50.0
Dwayne Harris
6 9 66.7 66 11 1 4 44.4

I ran into an immediate discrepancy. Eatman shows Beasley as having only been targeted 13 times. Perhaps he is going off of internal Cowboys numbers. However, if the numbers for the other receivers he used are accurate, Bease and TWill are no longer one and two. They are tied for first. Still pretty damned spiffy.

Of course, the question of why Beasley's numbers are different is not the most important one this table raises. That would be: Why is Miles Austin still considered a starter?

Let's take a look at all the things here that recommend giving him more snaps than everyone except Bryant. He has the lowest completion percentage rate. The lowest yards per catch. The only goose egg for touchdowns. And he gets fewer first downs per target than anyone else. So if you need to get yards, move the sticks, or score, you want to throw the ball to any other wide receiver before you look to get the ball to Miles.

The only arguments that I have heard for keeping Austin the number two behind Bryant (who is also the automatic double coverage on the field) is that he knows the route trees better and is probably a better blocker than either Williams or Beasley. I don't know about the first, since you would expect him to be open more which should result in a higher completion percentage than he has, and that second argument is officially known around here as the Martellus Bennett Principle, which is reason enough to disregard it.

Even with his injury problem, Austin is still a dangerous weapon. I don't want to see him benched. I would like to see his numbers improve, and I do think he can still be valuable. In a relief role. Let him prove that he is better than the chart above shows he is, and then he can resume the job as number two.

Jay Ratliff's release earlier this week showed that the team is making some hard decisions based on the value players have right now. If they continue to make those kinds of decisions, then Williams should be the number two wide receiver and Cole Beasley should get the nod in the slot. The figures demand it.


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