Dallas Cowboys: Can Tony Pollard really replace Tavon Austin?

Tavon Austin #10 of the Dallas Cowboys(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Tavon Austin #10 of the Dallas Cowboys(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

All indications are the Dallas Cowboys selected their new ‘web back’ when they drafted Memphis’ Tony Pollard – does he make Tavon Austin expendable?

It was this time last year, Cowboys Nation was abuzz. Not only did the Dallas Cowboys add a handful of exciting new players in the draft, but they also traded for some established veterans. And the veteran that garnered the most excitement was unquestionably Tavon Austin.

This year the new edition sparking our collective curiosity is Tony Pollard. Pollard, the do-it-all back from Memphis, seems like the ultimate offensive x-factor. And after hearing the top Cowboys brass talk about him and his immediate expectations, he may end up pushing Tavon Austin out the door.

Austin, the “Web Back”

Not long ago, Austin, a former 8th overall pick of the Rams, had fallen out of favor with his coaching staff. His inability to meet draft expectations coupled with his frequent visits to the training table made him nothing more than a high-priced gadget player on McVay’s Rams.

So they traded him to Dallas. On the Dallas Cowboys a much bigger role was expected. Perhaps you remember Stephen Jones’ outlandish comments about his expected workload?

Well, fast-forward to this year and the same crazy expectations are now being thrust on Pollard. So what gives? Were the Dallas Cowboys lying last year or did Tavon Austin just disappoint?

The answer is probably a little bit of both. It appears the Cowboys weren’t quite as committed to stretching the field horizontally as we initially thought, and Tavon turned out to be every bit as injury prone as we worried about.

When given the ball, Austin made plays. He provided a positive EPA in both rushing and receiving (something Ezekiel Elliot and Rod Smith cannot boast). Sadly, he was only available to play in seven games, he only ran the ball six times, and only caught the ball eight times. Not exactly the numbers any of us were expecting (somewhere I can hear a Rams fan laughing).

Now Pollard may not be as elusive or fast as Austin, but he’s twice the ball carrier Austin is. At 210lbs, he’s roughly 30lbs bigger than the fragile Austin. And recent indications are, he’ll be given a chance to contribute in the running game as an actual running back – something Austin was not (and I’m not just talking about those jet and orbital sweeps).

Additionally, Pollard has experience lining up as a receiver. He’s not the traditional running back catching passes out of the backfield. He’s an actual receiver in addition to a running back.

Tavon Austin was never really either of those things. Hence his unshakeable “gadget” label. That’s why it’s not too difficult to see Pollard replacing Austin in nearly all things offense.

Where Tavon has the advantage

Tavon Austin signed a team-friendly one-year deal this offseason to give it one more try as the Dallas Cowboys web back. But it appears everything he can do, so can the rookie Pollard. Except for one thing: punt returns.

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Overall Pollard is the superior special teams weapon. He can return kicks, cover kicks, and cover punts. But he’s unproven returning punts. Last season Pollard didn’t return a single punt. And for his career he only has two total attempts.

Tony Pollard is completely unproven in the area in which Tavon thrives. Austin has 82 professional returns for an impressive 8.2 per return average. He’s threat to take it to the house every time the ball is in his hands. That’s not an easily replaced trait.

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You can’t teach speed so Tavon shouldn’t be completely written off, but it seems there’s tremendous overlap between what Tony Pollard brings and what Tavon does. Just keep an eye on those punt returns this summer.

  • Published on 05/29/2019 at 12:00 PM
  • Last updated at 05/28/2019 at 17:57 PM