Stanback Must Step Up With Austin Out

get ready. This year is a different story. I've had the whole off-season, OTAs, mini-camp, and all those reps have definitely come in handy. They have high expectations for me. I'm still not where I want to be, or need to be, but the reality of the situation is that I've still only been out there for a year. I can't expect too much, but being an athlete and a competitor you have high expectations of yourself."

Stanback is right that more is expected of him.

A year ago, coaches did not want Stanback on the field in a game situation, not running from scrimmage. This year, Garrett acknowledges there are some things Stanback can do well enough to make plans around him.

"He's fast and smart and it matters to him," says Garrett, applying the family yardstick for players. "He wants to play and he wants to get better. As Coach Phillips has said, this game (Houston Friday night in preseason game No.3 at Texas Stadium) we're going to be playing our starters more than we have. But with Miles down for awhile, absolutely Isaiah will get more chances, and next week he'll get a lot."

If you're not sure about that "matters to him" part, go back and watch the kickoff returns Stanback has had the first two weeks. He attacks a potential hole in the coverage scheme. He clearly doesn't want simply to play, but to make plays. That's a trait coaches can't teach.

The difficulty is whether a former quarterback can make the transition to a new position fast enough to contribute to what should be a contending team.

"Just being semi-new to the position is hard," Stanback says. "I'm trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get, but the truth is you get rookie free agents coming in here with more experience than I have as a receiver. Guys have played the position for five or 10 years and things come naturally to them, things I'm still working at."

The quarterback he was makes it easy for Stanback to identify his strengths, though, as well as his weaknesses. As a receiver, Isaiah, what are you good at? He chuckles and doesn't hesitate. "I can run. I can run fast. Sometimes it feels like that's about it. I'm pretty strong. I'm strong in the weight room and I'm learning how to use that strength. If you don't know how to use it, it doesn't do you any good. I'm getting better in the running game, stuff like that.

"Route-running is getting better. There are still some routes I definitely need to work with, but I'm improving."

There are some similarities between Stanback and Austin, albeit for different reasons. Both began the off-season extremely unpolished. They are probably the two fastest receivers in camp. Both have potential that makes you giddy, and Stanback has tried to learn from his teammate.

"I try to learn from everybody," he says, "but for sure Miles is a great example of a guy who has been in a similar situation to me. Players who would show you a flash but be inconsistent because of inexperience. You can see what he's done with hard work. He's caught everyone's attention by making plays."

Depending on what Phillips decides to do with rookie Felix Jones, Austin likely would have opened the season as the primary kickoff returner. That's a job that could now fall to Stanback, who hopes to show the progress Austin has.

Keep in mind, Isaiah Stanback is about a year behind Miles Austin in development. He's not ready for prime time, but there is a chance he could be a showstopper. He admits he now feels more like an NFL receiver.

"I'm not nearly where I want to be," he says, "but I'm getting there. I'm making progress."

Will it be fast enough on this team? Another window of opportunity has just opened.

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