Yesterday's loss to the New York Jets didn't leave many positives to discuss for the Dallas Cowboys. But one silver lining was the play of Receivers Tavon Austin and Cedrick Wilson, who were efficient and impactful in larger roles with some of their teammates missing in action.
We already knew that Randall Cobb would miss the Jets game. He injured his back in practice last week and was among the Cowboys' seven inactive players in New York.
But things got much worse on Dallas' first offensive series when Amari Cooper injured his quad and wound up leaving the game for good. That left Dak Prescott without his top receiver in Cooper and one of his best security blankets in Cobb.
Compounding the issue were the absences of Tyron Smith and La'el Collins at the offensive tackle position. When a QB is under pressure, trusting your receivers is vital to keeping the ball moving and avoiding a complete passing game shutdown.
Thankfully, Tavon Austin and Cedrick Wilson were able to contribute.
Austin had five catches for 64 yards, the most catches he's had in a single game so far as a Cowboy. Some of them weren't easy grabs, either; Tavon had to making a diving catch along the sideline for one and then slide to the ground for another reception. He did a great job of adjusting when Prescott was throwing under duress.
Wilson also had five catches resulting in 46 yards. After missing his entire rookie season on injured reserve and having only one target so far in 2019, these were Cedrick's first catches in a regular season game.
Combined, Austin and Wilson kept the passing game afloat with 10 catches for 110 yards. They were each targeted just six times to get those numbers; surprisingly good efficiency given the lack of playing time they've had with the starting quarterback.
Credit Dak Prescott for finding ways to get the ball to his less familiar options, but also credit the receivers for knowing where to go and making the plays.
Austin and Wilson may be asked to do more again this week in a pivotal meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles. The winner of this game will take sole possession of the NFC East, with both Dallas and Philly currently sitting at 3-3.
Randall Cobb will likely be back. He was already considered a game-time decision yesterday and perhaps the Cowboys rested him because they felt confident about beating the Jets (whoops!) without him.
We have yet to hear the latest on Amari Cooper. One outlet reported that he was in “significant pain” following yesterday's game, but that could just be soreness from a contusion rather than any kind of major injury. More is sure to come on Amari's availability in the coming days.
Another positive looking ahead to Sunday is the Eagles' poor pass defense, which is currently giving up about 280 yards per game through the air. That puts them in the bottom five of NFL teams currently.
If Dallas does have to take on Philadelphia without their number-one receiver, at least yesterday's game gave Tavon Austin and Cedrick Wilson a chance to put in some work with Dak Prescott in a tough situation.
Even more importantly, they were able to deliver when called upon. We'll see if this week's game brings the same opportunities.