It’s Cole Beasley, not Tavon Austin, who’s been the featured punt returner through minicamps. Here’s why that may be a good thing for Cowboys fans.
When the Dallas Cowboys acquired Tavon Austin from the Los Angeles Rams over draft weekend, speculation ran wild. It was hard not to get excited about a lightning-fast playmaker who was once drafted eighth overall.
Tavon Austin came with a chip on his shoulder and on a one-year prove-it deal. It was the perfect situation for comeback. Factor in his impressive highlight reel (see below) and his age (still just 28) and you have the collective imagination of Cowboys Nation running wild.
But when minicamps started up last month and Cole Beasley, not Tavon Austin, was returning punts, we scratched our heads. If the Cowboys really do expect to give Austin 12-24 touches per game, surely they’ll need to use him on kick and/or punt returns, right?
As discussed a couple weeks ago, the 12-24 touch prediction was a bit off base. Even the lower end is going to be hard to hit on a team that features Ezekiel Elliott. But we can still take away from that misguided prediction, the Cowboys have high hopes and a steady workload expected for their new ‘web back’.
It’s all about fumbles with Tavon Austin. For every game-breaking good play, there’s drive-crippling fumble to go with it. In his five year career, Austin has a jaw-dropping 22 fumbles attached to his name. His ball-security is one of the reasons he fell out of favor in LA in the first place.
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But it’s important to dive in deeper because simply calling him fumble-prone is a mistake.
In his career, Austin has a combined 378 receptions/carries. Of those he’s fumbled the ball five times. That means he fumbles the ball once every 75.6 times. Not too shabby.
But Austin has also returned 158 punts in his career. He’s fumbled 17 of those. That projects to one fumble in every nine punt returns! That’s bad. Like, Miley Cyrus twerking kinda bad.
We still haven’t forgiven Ryan Switzer for fumbling that punt against LA last season. Imagine what we’ll do if Austin drops a punt four times in a single season?
That’s why we should all be fine with Cole Beasley fielding those punts. He may fair catch it too often but I’ll take that over the risk/reward that Tavon Austin brings on those.
It’s likely we’ll see Tavon Austin returning more punts in training camp and eventually claim the starting punt returner job. But as of now, Cole Beasley is the man I’m backing. He may not be as exciting as Tavon, but he’s a heck of a lot safer.
What say you? Would you be ok if Tavon Austin fumbled away three balls this season as long as he also provided three touchdowns? Or would you rather take even money with Bease and just happily roll with zero fumbles and zero touchdowns?