Ask WR Miles Austin what he makes of his phenomenal season — 81 receptions, 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns, not to mention his strong game in the playoff opener against the Eagles — and he will point to the increased work he has put in over the past year. But can one year really make that big of a difference for a player who had only 435 yards receiving in his first 41 career games and primarily was a special-teamer?
Apparently so. Austin worked hard on some specific elements of his game and altered his offseason training to get even stronger and faster. He tweaked a few things in his route running and explored ways to set up and beat defensive backs assigned to stop him, knowing a chance to start might come this season.
"Getting physical on the top of the route, getting out of the break quick, getting out of your route and running out of the break to get to the ball," Austin told PFW. "Locking in on the ball every time and trying to focus in really on trying to catch the ball. It was the little things that mean a lot. Obviously, footwork and that type of stuff, too, running routes."
But his best adjustment might have come after Austin broke out with back-to-back monster games against the Chiefs and Falcons in Weeks Five and Seven, respectively. Defenses started taking notice of who he was and that he appeared to be the pass catcher of choice — even over WR Roy Williams and TE Jason Witten at the time — for QB Tony Romo. After a brief period in which Austin was being held in check, he finished the year strong.
"Some (teams) go man in the slot, man-zone (combinations), but I am getting a better feel of teams and their coverages and I am doing a better job of looking at the film," Austin said. "(Studying) tendencies of D-backs in their backpedal and where they like to be in their zones. It has all been a process. I am going to get there one way or another."
There — wherever that is — appears to be a fairly vague goal, but Austin likes it that way. He says he "always can do better" and "doesn't feel like he has arrived yet." He credits taking advantage of the opportunity he got in 2009 after previously failing to seize chances to impress the Cowboys as the reason he has broken out with his best season.
"I think I was given opportunities (before this season), but I think you just have to make the best of the opportunities that are given to you. That's all I am trying to do."
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