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Fifth Dimension


something new for Austin. There is a transition, like being spot on with his sight adjustments, recognizing blitzes to know when to cut off his routes and being willing to settle into the soft spots of coverages, as Patrick Crayton does so well. 

But Austin's cool with all that, and even receivers coach Ray Sherman seemed unfazed by the move, saying, "Should be an easy transition" for even a second-year NFL starter. 

"It's good, inside or outside," Austin says of lining up in the slot. "I try to do whatever I can to help." 

Even though this is something new, moving you out of your previous comfort zone and likely into more traffic in the middle of the field? 

"It is what it is, I enjoy it," says Austin nonchalantly, seemingly never one to let much of anything bother him, including having to settle for - for now - signing that one-year, $3.16 million restricted tender, which unlike a long-term deal comes with no signing bonus or guaranteed money after all he did last year. 

Ever looking on the bright side, he says, eyes also brightening up, "I'm making double what I made last year," and could have added nearly as much as he's made in his first four seasons in the league combined. 

So if it's offensive threats you crave, the Cowboys ought to provide even more than last year by moving Austin into the slot in three and, hey, even four-receiver sets since there is no sense letting Crayton become some $2 million insurance policy or Kevin Ogletree grow rust on the bench. 

Of course, Williams and Bryant are the X-factors. Both need to make enough plays to gain proper respect more so than put up big numbers. And for a rookie wide receiver, that can be accomplished much easier lining up outside instead of traditionally thinking the third guy automatically goes into the slot. 

As Phillips said, "Mostly young players, you want to keep (outside)." 

Routes are simpler. Adjustments are fewer. Coverages easier to decipher. 

But Bryant must be successful on the outside to make Austin more of a threat inside than Crayton has been, and no matter what everyone's perception seems to be, PC was effective, last year catching 37 passes as the third receiver - five for touchdowns and one of those a team-long 80-yarder - and averaging 16.8 yards a catch, certainly nothing to sneeze at. 

To that, mix in Witten's usual Pro Bowl performance, the possibility of Felix becoming more of a threat in the passing game and Ogletree's ability to run the bubble screen from outside, and maybe just maybe the Cowboys improve more than just a little on their third-down efficiency of last year, the 40.6 conversion percentage tying them for 13th in the NFL and Romo's 81.4 third-down QB rating ranking him 18th. 

More options plus more threats must mean higher efficiency. This new dimension, Austin in the slot, should make that a possibility. 

"We see a lot of doubles on Witten," Phillips said. "Teams trying to take Witten out, you know. Those teams that do that, you have to have other positions to take advantage of that." 

Well then, with Roy and Dez outside, the possibility of Felix at tailback more, Kevin's threat at times to run that bubble screen and Miles inside ... 

Well, you get the picture.   

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