After missing the last two months, Tavon Austin is close to returning and should boost the Dallas Cowboys as both a punt returner as well as a receiver.
Tavon Austin came to the Dallas Cowboys with fairly lofty expectations. The former top-10 pick came to Dallas in a trade over draft weekend. Without hesitation, Cowboys brass outlined the massive workload they expected to give their fancy new weapon (although I debunked the realisticness of that almost immediately).
The oft-injured big-play threat was brought in specifically to stretch opposing defenses. Since he was at his most dangerous near the line of scrimmage and in space, the idea was he could stretch defenses horizontally while deep threats like Terrance Williams and Deonte Thompson stretched them vertically. Sadly we all know how those vertical options worked out.
Without a deep option on the roster, the Dallas Cowboys found their newly acquired web back to be somewhat neutralized. After all, the point was to build an offense that could stretch a defense. Without a vertical threat, defenses just crowded the line – there was no stretch.
Eventually, Amari Cooper would solve these vertical issues for the Dallas Cowboys. The only problem is it came too late for Tavon Austin. Austin suffered a severe groin injury in Week 6 and never had the pleasure of playing with Cooper (who joined the team in Week 9).
For the first time in nearly forever the Dallas Cowboys will have a true multi-layered attack. Cooper (and even Michael Gallup now) are the feared deep threats, Cole Beasley (and even Blake Jarwin now) are the short and intermediate threats, and Tavon Austin will be line of scrimmage (LOS) threat, specializing in screens and sweeps.
The Dallas Cowboys offense can finally stretch opposing defenses. And I don’t have to tell you what that means for Ezekiel Elliott who will face far less crowded boxes as a result (actually, I think I just told you).
Look, Tavon Austin was relatively successful even without a deep threat on the roster. He caught 100 percent of the balls thrown his way every week but one, he averaged 9.2 yards per attempt rushing, and he brought it to the house and scored a touchdown on nearly 30% of his receptions. His season stats aren’t great but he was highly effective when actually utilized.
Now imagine what Tavon can do with an established deep threat finally on the roster. Defenses can’t double Cooper, while also bracketing Bease, while also crowding the box for Zeke, while also protecting the edge from Austin. We’re about to finally see what the Dallas Cowboys intended to do all along this season.
Don’t Forget Punt Returns
With Cole Beasley as the primary punt returner the Dallas Cowboys are at the bottom of the league in punt return yards. Averaging only 4.8 yards per return, the Dallas Cowboys are often better off fair catching the ball and avoiding penalties than they are actually trying to return it (an argument I have seriously made about how the risk usually outweighs the reward in special teams returns).
Austin brings with him an 8.2 punt return average. While he also brings a disturbing fumble rate (more on that next week), but he also has a bunch of big runs and three career touchdowns. With the offense struggling like it is, don’t you think they could use a boost like Austin in the special teams game?
I’m not saying Tavon is about to set the NFL on fire, but I am saying he will finally have the opportunity to contribute in a way the Dallas Cowboys envisioned when they traded for him. I’m also saying his return will stretch the opposition in a way that will benefit everyone on this offense.
Tavon Austin is nearly back (probably Week 17) and he joins the team right when they need him the most – the postseason.
- Published on 12/21/2018 at 13:01 PM
- Last updated at 12/21/2018 at 08:02 AM