This time last year, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin was putting the finishing touches on his breakout year. The man from Monmouth, mysteriously overlooked by talent scouts coming out of high school and again when he became NFL draft eligible, was setting the NFL on its ear, ripping defensive backfields to shreds, and leaving his own mark on the Cowboys’ record books.
This time a year ago, Mike Jenkins was well on his way to his first-ever Pro Bowl. He had not only put to rest all argument over whether he or Orlando Scandrick was the best of the cornerbacks the Cowboys took in the 2008 draft, he had established himself as the best cover corner on the team.
This time last year, Anthony Spencer was establishing himself as a formidable counterpart to the NFL’s best outside linebacker. Spencer had emerged as a run stopper that could pressure the quarterback. Putting the automatic double team on DeMarcus Ware would cost teams with Spencer on the field.
That was 2009.
In week five against the Kansas City Chiefs, Miles Austin burst onto the scene. He caught 10 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. He had not been a starter prior to that outburst, but he was from that moment forward. He would finish the season with 81 catches for 1320 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was Pro Bowl and big contract bound.
In 2009, cornerback Mike Jenkins snagged five interceptions. He officially recorded another 19 passes defended. He also recorded 45 tackles and four assists. Jenkins’ play earned him a Pro Bowl berth and established him as perhaps the best cover corner on the team.
In ’09, Anthony Spencer recorded only six sacks, but he always seemed to be a half-step away from another one. He put constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He also posted 50 tackles, 17 assists, and grabbed an interception.
That was 2009.
This is 2010.
Miles Austin, after 13 games, has 58 receptions for 826 yards and five touchdowns. However, he has not posted a 100-yard receiving effort since game 7. He has caught a total of 15 passes in the past six games.
In other words, Miles Austin, the man Jerry Jones made the third highest-paid receiver in football, has all but disappeared.
Mike Jenkins has but one interception and 8 passes defensed in 13 games this season. He does have 46 tackles, mainly because he has been chasing down receivers that burned him. He has notoriously passed on a couple of opportunities to make a tackle, making what Chris Collinsworth derisively called “business decisions.”
So far in 2010, Anthony Spencer has made 41 tackles, with nine assists and just three sacks. His play, like the play of Austin and Jenkins, has taken a noticeable step in the wrong direction, leaving the pundits and maybe the coaches scratching their heads.
2010 is easily the most disastrous, disappointing season in the 50 year history of the Dallas Cowboys. A team that was supposed to contend for the Super Bowl now has a better chance at a top five draft pick than a Super Bowl run. A much better chance.
Wade Phillips was obviously a big part of the problem.
Wade is gone.
Players like Austin, Spencer and Jenkins, however, remain. They were up-and-comers the Cowboys were counting on to play invaluable roles in the team’s progress towards post-season success. Instead, they have shown themselves to be men with more promise than production. They have been a whole lot of buck for the bang.
It seems fitting the Dallas Cowboys are owned by Jerry Jones, the NFL’s version of the crazy prospector. After all, so much of the talent on the field has proven to be little more than fool’s gold.
I cut Austin some slack due to the Romo injury and the addition of Dez this season. Yes, he has several drops and those are inexcusable but in spite of everything I've mentioned his numbers are still respectable. To me, if you want an example of "fool's gold", I would point not to a player but a group of players, that being the so-called 3-headed monster. How did they get that nickname anyway? Barber at one time was a monster on his own, but all Felix Jones has shown is a flash here and there and missing the necessary instincts required of a successful NFL running back. Tashard Choice seems to display what is lacking in Jones, but still lacking in the wow factor. In my opinion, while there are many needs on this team, offensive line and defensive backs especially, the Cowboys would be smart to target a full time ball carrier currently not on this roster.