Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 10/13/11
For all the grief Tony Romo has gotten lately, at least he has one excuse: He hasn't had his receiving corps at full strength since the season opener. In that game against the Jets, Miles Austin had five catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. Dez Bryant had three catches for a whopping 71 yards and a touchdown. They haven't been on the field together since. That changed this week when both were on the practice field at the Cowboys' Valley Ranch facility. Austin returned from a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the last two games. Bryant missed the San Francisco game, the one Austin got injured in, and has faded in the latter part of games because of a nagging thigh bruise. Both have had time to heal thanks to last week's bye. Both Austin and Bryant are considered two of the top playmakers in the offense. That should greatly enhance Romo's decision-making, which has been picked apart the last two weeks. Think about this: With Austin out and Bryant limping through the second halves of games, what are Romo's big-play options? There's the always-reliable tight end Jason Witten, but his forte is crossing routes, not downfield routes. The Cowboys' second-string wideout options are Kevin Ogletree and Jesse Holley. Ogletree has been a disappointment, considering he's a third-year player who should be bucking for playing time. Instead, he hasn't given Romo much reason to have that he knows where to lineup, much less whether he will catch the ball. Jesse Holley made some huge plays late in the comeback win over the 49ers, but hasn't been heard from since. He's had trouble getting open. As nice as his story is, there's a reason he was discovered on a reality show after bouncing around the NFL and CFL. Speaking of bouncing around, journeyman Laurent Robinson emerged as a reliable target in the Cowboys' most recent game. Robinson, who's also played for the Rams and Falcons, caught seven passes in the loss to the Lions, second only to Witten's eight catches. In that Lions game, Ogletree had just one grab. Holley was shutout. The Cowboys' frontline receivers are getting healthy at the right time, too. The Patriots, Sunday's opponent, are allowing a generous 326.6 passing yards a game worst in the NFL. The Patriots do have seven interceptions, which Romo is undoubtedly aware. Romo has thrown five picks this season, including two that were returned for touchdowns in the meltdown against the Lions. But in Austin, Romo has another safety-valve receiver whom he can trust. In addition to being a big-play threat, Austin is also a possession receiver. Of his 14 catches this season, 11 have been for first downs. Austin has a knack for working his way back to the quarterback when Romo goes off-script, as he tends to do. Austin finds ways to get open when plays break down to keep drives alive. Bryant, in just his second season, hasn't fully developed the same ESP with Romo. But if he's fully healthy, he should be more of a factor late in games than he's been. Bryant can also be more of a factor in goal-line situations, where the Cowboys have shown some weakness. With his strength and large frame, Bryant can shield defenders from the ball on fades and quick strikes at the pylon. Again, that's when Bryant is healthy. For just the second time this season, both Bryant and Austin should be healthy at the start of a game. Whether it's also a healthy start for the Cowboys' offense remains to be seen. Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire
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