Week one finally arrived and it arrived with a whimper as the Dallas Cowboys fell to the Carolina Panthers 16-8. It was a game that was highlighted by offensive inefficiency and that’s being kind.
The Dallas offense struggled. It’s as simple as that. From the play calling, to the quarterback, to the offensive line, to the receiving targets, and even your All-Pro running back. Everyone on the offensive side of the ball bears some amount of responsibility for the lack of effectiveness.
In thinking about the week one loss where the team scored only eight points, I began to think about how little we saw a couple of players who were being highly touted in the preseason: Tavon Austin and Michael Gallup.
Both players were acquired during the NFL Draft this offseason. Michael Gallup with the 81st overall pick and Tavon Austin in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams for a sixth round pick.
Under Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett, it’s not surprising that Michael Gallup’s usage was pretty low in the opener. I analyzed the draft picks from Jason Garrett’s tenure with the team and found that aside from the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott, rookies generally aren’t slated to start for the Dallas Cowboys unless there is an injury. Like when Dak Prescott opened the season as the starter in 2016.
Aside from Lance Lenoir, Michael Gallup was probably the most consistent and productive wide receiver in training camp. Practice report after practice report talked about Gallup making plays.
Tavon Austin came with a ton of fanfare. He was viewed as a weapon you could use in many ways. Think of a lesser version of Tyreek Hill.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise when you look at the snap counts from Sunday’s game that Michael Gallup and Tavon Austin saw fewer snaps than journeyman Wide Receiver Deonte Thompson. Michael Gallup’s.
Here’s what Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones had to say about Tavon Austin less than two weeks ago.
What we didn’t know is [Tavon Austin] could play outside WR. In our makeup this year, to get those defenses to back off the line of scrimmage so that Zeke can have some room to operate, in order to get them off, we’re going to do it with speed.”
Here are the wide receiver snap counts.
- Cole Beasley – 43
- Allen Hurns – 38
- Deonte Thompson – 30
- Michael Gallup – 29
- Terrance Williams – 19
- Tavon Austin – 10
Tavon Austin’s 10 offensive snaps were the third fewest on the team on Sunday. Only Rod Smith and Jamize Olawale had fewer snaps than Austin. Gallup’s 29 snaps were fourth among wide receivers.
We expect Cole Beasley to be on the field a lot since he’s the best wide receiver on the team. Allen Hurns is going to get his opportunities since the team made him a free agent signing this Spring.
The questions lie with the rest of the group. The only rationale I can see for playing Thompson more than Gallup is that you think he gives you a speed element that the rookie doesn’t give. With Dak Prescott’s seeming unwillingness to go deep, Thompson’s best ability is limited. Gallup is a better wide receiver, and he needs to play more.
Michael Gallup may still have a learning curve to go through as an NFL wide receiver, but he had a lot of success at Colorado State. He’s a good all-around wide receiver who can help the Dallas Cowboys if he is able to get more opportunities.
Tavon Austin isn’t the best wide receiver in the NFL, but his speed and ability to make people miss with the ball in his hands offers a dimension that the Dallas Cowboys don’t have. It’s criminal that they didn’t try to get him the ball. They ran the jet sweep that we’ve seen them run in the past with pretty good success with Lucky Whitehead, but they couldn’t get it blocked on Sunday. That they didn’t give Austin any other opportunities is the shocking part. Aside from Elliott, he’s the most dynamic player they have on the team with the ball in his hands. If you’re going to throw a bubble screen, perhaps you should throw it to the guy who can make people miss.
The Dallas Cowboys offensive staff is being called uncreative this week and for good reason. They have a tremendous weapon in Tavon Austin and they only attempted to got him the ball one time. He wasn’t targeted. Some of that is on Dak Prescott for not hitting him when he was open, but you need to design more runs for Austin even if you give him the ball out of the backfield.
The Dallas Cowboys need to figure out a way to get Tavon Austin and Michael Gallup on the field more and find ways to get them the football. Next Cole Beasley, they’re your best bets to move the ball down the field.
Other Notable Snap Counts
- Taco Charlton tied for the team lead with Antwuan Woods with 49 snaps a piece or 73% of the defensive snaps. Interestingly, that was one more snap than starting defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford. Pro Football Reference credited Taco with two pressures, a stop (or a play that ended in a loss for the offense), a pass defensed, and three total tackles.
- Jaylon Smith led the linebackers in snaps with 62 snaps on defense.
- Geoff Swaim appears to be the lead dog at tight end after week one. He had more than doubled Blake Jarwin’s 22.
- In his first start at center since 2015, Joe Looney played well. According to Pro Football Focus, he didn’t allow a sack, hit, pressure, or hurry on any of the Dallas Cowboys 44 pass block snaps. Not too shabby.