Miles Austin getting paid like an elite receiver, but not playing like one
Jean-Jacques Taylor – Dallas News
Miles Austin signed a fat new deal in the off-season that paid him about $17 million this season in bonus and salary.
Though he’s being paid like an elite receiver, he isn’t playing like one.
Yes, he scored a nifty 37-yard touchdown and surpassed the 100-yard mark against Arizona last week, ending a seven-game streak without one, but he didn’t play that well. He caught only six of the 13 passes directed toward him, dropping one in the end zone and slipping on a route that led to an interception return for a touchdown.
The Cowboys need him to play better.
We can blame some of his struggles on Tony Romo’s injury and Austin’s inability to find a consistent rhythm with Jon Kitna. But the bottom line is he’s dropped too many passes and had too many concentration lapses this season.
It’s not fair, but more is expected of players who earn the most money, especially in the salary-cap era. The Cowboys expect Austin to be one of their best players. He doesn’t get to fade into the shadows.
The Cowboys need him to be a player worthy of the spotlight. Thus far, that hasn’t happened.
Q: You wrote that David Buehler makes you want to grab a bottle of the pink stuff and guzzle it every single time he lines up for a kick, but this is a problem caused by Jerry Jones. Put the blame where it’s due.
TAYLOR: Can you really blame Jerry for a kicker with one of the most powerful legs in the NFL missing an 18-yard extra point? I don’t think so. It’s Buehler’s fault. The dude hit a 53-yarder in the third quarter. He should be able to make an extra point blindfolded. He’s missed five kicks – two extra points – from fewer than 40 yards, while he’s missed only four kicks longer than 40 yards. It’s about focus and concentration. He has to do a better job, and giving him some legitimate competition in training camp is the best way to do it.
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Q: You media guys can’t continue to stay in Garrett’s corner anymore after what happened against Arizona. These are same old Cowboys. Agree?
Glenn Guillory, Baytown, Texas
TAYLOR: First, I haven’t written anything about Garrett other than he’s the front-runner for the job and he’s done a good job providing leadership and direction. He has the team playing hard and with passion. I didn’t see a team that was unprepared. I saw a receiver slip leading to a pick-six, another receiver drop a ball that led to a pick-six and a cornerback playing poor technique that resulted in a long touchdown pass as the Cardinals took a 21-3 lead. Jerry has to do his due diligence, interview a lot of people and then decide if Garrett is the best fit.
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Q: Why, after pulling within 21-19, didn’t our heroes try a 2-point conversion?
TAYLOR: Philosophically, Garrett doesn’t believe in going for two points until the fourth quarter. He doesn’t like chasing one point until late in the game.
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Q: It seemed to me someone grossly missed a tackle on Skelton when he was making his pass on that fourth-and-15 play near the end. That would have effectively ended the game.
TAYLOR: That was some of Orlando Scandrick’s work. What do you do when you call the perfect blitz and the cornerback runs right past the quarterback? Not much to do other than shake your head. The blitz worked because Scandrick popped free, but he couldn’t finish the play.
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Q: I was supportive of Garrett until he let Marion Barber back in the game following his bonehead penalty. He blew a chance to send an important message.
Do you agree?
TAYLOR: I go back and forth because Garrett said Barber apologized profusely as soon as the play ended. Sometimes, it’s good enough if the player understands the depth of his mistake and shows remorse.
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Q: Everyone seems to be complaining about Mike Jenkins and most of it is justified. But the bigger problem is Alan Ball. Do you see him making the team next year? He always seems to be out of position and he’s a terrible tackler.
Ron Guerra, El Segundo, Calif.
TAYLOR: Ball might have a role as a backup safety-cornerback and special teams contributor. He’s not good enough to start because he gives up a lot more plays than he makes. He’s had plenty of opportunities and hasn’t taken advantage of them. It’s time to move on.
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Q: I believe Jerry is trying to give Jason Garrett every opportunity to win the coaching job. Was it not reported in the media that Romo could have returned earlier? No one knew exactly how long his injury would take to heal. No one knew how Kitna would be able to fit in. If all the reports are true, and Garrett needs five wins to be considered for the coaching vacancy, keeping Romo in the bullpen was the least Jerry could do for Garrett.
TAYLOR: Sorry, I’m not buying that. When Romo’s injury occurred, it was considered an eight-week injury, which essentially put him out for the season. Once the Cowboys dipped to 1-7 and there was no hope of making the playoffs, he should have been put on IR so Dallas could look at players from other teams for several weeks. I haven’t read or heard Jerry say anything about five wins guaranteeing Garrett the job. He’s the front-runner, but it’s not a fait accompli.
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Q: Do you think Dallas’ pass defense isn’t playing zone any better than it is because it hasn’t practiced it in the off-season and training camp?
TAYLOR: Nope. The Cowboys were not exclusively a man-to-man team. They used some zone. The problem is the Cowboys’ defense hasn’t had a single player play better in 2010 than he did in 2009. Some, like Mike Jenkins and Anthony Spencer, have played a lot worse, and others, such as Jay Ratliff and Terence Newman, have been inconsistent. The result is overall the defense has dipped considerably.