With Dez Bryant slowed, Cowboys need Miles Austin boost

IRVING, Texas -- When the Cowboys’ offense is at its optimum, Miles Austin plays a big role.

In the last two games, Austin has been targeted only 11 times to go with six catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. His only two catches last week at Baltimore came on back-to-back plays in a second-quarter drive that ended in a Tony Romo interception.

With Dez Bryant at least slowed by a groin strain or not playing at all Sunday at Carolina, the Cowboys need Austin to be Austin.

On the season, he has 20 catches for 331 yards and three touchdowns, but he has yet to be a focal point of the offense. Maybe it’s because of a lingering hamstring injury. Maybe it’s because defenses are trying to take him away, like Chicago, who doubled him most of the game.

Regardless of why, Romo and Austin have to become more than just a part-time combination even if Bryant plays. So far the quarterback and wide receiver have not connected as smoothly as they have in previous years with 20 catches coming on 33 targets.

Coach Jason Garrett said Austin is “getting healthier and healthier,” which also means he has not been healthy as he continues to come back from the hamstring injury. At times, Austin has dominated games in a way that Bryant has not yet done.

Think back to 2009 and early in 2010 and ’11 when 100-yard games were the norm for Austin.

That’s the guy the Cowboys need against the Panthers.