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Film Review: Tavon Austin Adds Explosive Element to Cowboys Offense

Brian Martin

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Film Review: Tavon Austin Adds Explosive Element to Cowboys Offense

The Dallas Cowboys did something completely unexpected during the 2018 NFL Draft, they traded for veteran running back/wide receiver/return specialist, Tavon Austin. These kind of draft day trades are uncommon in the NFL and rarely pay off, but this is someone who could add an entirely different element to the Cowboys offense.

Now that Tavon Austin is now a member of the Dallas Cowboys, I wanted to get a little bit more familiar with the type of player he is and how he fits into the offensive scheme.

I'll be completely honest, I wasn't all too familiar with Tavon Austin. The only things I really knew about him was that he is dangerous in space and that he has been mostly used as a "gadget" player for the majority of his professional career with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams.

When I started watching his game film with the Rams, everything I believed he was proved true. But, his professional game tape left me wondering how he would fit in with the Cowboys, so I decided to dig a little deeper to find out how he was utilized in college. I did this because I thought he could've been better utilized in the NFL.

Austin's college game film as you can imagine was much better than his professional film. You could argue that was because of the different levels in competition, but I think it was because West Virginia had a much better understanding of his strengths and weaknesses.

The main difference I noticed in his professional game tape and his college tape was that he was used much more as a running back at West Virginia than he was with the Rams. I think this is where he is most comfortable, even though he is undersized for the position at just 5'9", 175 pounds.

Strangely enough, I think the Dallas Cowboys agree because that's the way he was announced when the trade was completed. I would expect the Cowboys use Tavon Austin as a change of pace/receiving back to complement Ezekiel Elliott, and I couldn't be more excited about his addition.

Austin is an explosive player and he has the ability to take over a game almost all by himself because of his unique skill set. I discovered this when I watched what he was able to accomplish in 2012 against a 10th-ranked Oklahoma Sooner team. He accumulated 572 All-Purpose Yards, 344 of which were rushing yards, and 2 touchdowns.

I wanted to share with you a few of his explosive plays in that matchup and how I think he could be utilized in the Dallas Cowboys offense this season.

Running

T. Austin long TD run

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This was just one of several long runs Tavon Austin had against Oklahoma. The Sooner defense didn't have an answer for him all game.

Austin starts the play lined up in the backfield as the running back in the pistol formation behind Geno Smith. Dallas doesn't run a lot of pistol formations, but this is exactly the kind of outside zone play he will run with the Cowboys and the results we could see because of his speed/explosion.

Now, I understand this play was perfectly blocked, but all Austin needs is a crease and he's gone. We've all heard that "speed kills" in the NFL. Well, Tavon Austin has that in spades. He can be really dangerous behind the Cowboys talented offensive line, even if he only receives a handful of carries a game.

Here's another example of how dangerous he can be because of his speed, even in a goal line situation.

T. Austin goal line TD

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Tavon Austin probably won't be asked to run the ball very much around the goal line for the Dallas Cowboys because of how proficient Ezekiel Elliott is in short yardage situations, but the play above proves he can still be dangerous in short yardage situations.

On this play, things aren't as perfectly blocked as they were in the earlier clip. Austin had to use both his speed and elusiveness to shake a defender, who nearly had the play stopped in the backfield, in order to find the end zone. It's an impressive run that could come in handy for the Cowboys in 2018.

Receiving

The fact that Tavon Austin is more well-known as a wide receiver in the NFL should tell you all you need to know about how dangerous he can be in the receiving game. I think he will be utilized as a receiver with the Dallas Cowboys, but I think it will mostly be as a RB coming out of the backfield.

Because of his size, Austin would have to play out of the slot with the Cowboys. Cole Beasley currently holds down this position and is not only a better receiver, but has Dak Prescott's confidence. Austin may spell Beasley from time to time, but I don't believe it will be his primary position.

T. Austin catch out of the backfield

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This simple pitch and catch play is exactly how I believe Scott Linehan will use Tavon Austin in the Cowboys passing game. Austin is easily able to pick up 10 yards and the first down here because of how quickly he gets up the field after the catch.

He will be a mismatch against bigger/slower linebackers and gives Prescott a safety valve in the passing game if he needs to get rid of the ball quickly. This is something that should prove invaluable in 2018, especially after how frustrating things were with the passing game last season.

✭✭✭✭✭

Overall, there are a variety different ways Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan can get Tavon Austin involved in the Cowboys offense in both the running and passing game. I personally believe we will see him lined up as a RB the majority of the time, but will be used as a WR as well.

We will see Austin take handoffs out of the backfield, run jet sweeps, reverses, RB/WR screens, swing/dump off passes, run routes in the passing game, and of course be heavily involved in the return game as both a kick and punt returner. All in all, he could be the explosive element the Cowboys offense has been missing for some time now.

What role do you envision Tavon Austin having with the Dallas Cowboys?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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16 Comments
  • Eric Maras

    Tavon Austin went to West Virginia, not Virginia Tech…

    • Brian Martin

      It’s been corrected. For some reason always get this to teams mixed up

      • Eric Maras

        Cool glad I could help! Great article 🙂 Hoping Tavon will bring some spark to the offense this year

  • Chuck Wright

    another good read. TA should bring a needed element to the offense. Of course assuming our OC can figure out how to use him.

    • Brian Martin

      Thanks Chuck. I’m also hoping Linehan is able to figure out a way to use him.

  • Pamela Keeth

    Virginia Tech….Really??? I thought they were Hokies not Mountaineers. Kind of a glaring mistake.

    • Brian Martin

      Sorry about that. I don’t know why, but I always get those two teams mixed up. It has been corrected.

  • elindio42

    Austin fumbles punts! Three last year!

    • Brian Martin

      This is a big concern. I’m hoping the Cowboys can stress the importance of ball security and this doesn’t become a problem moving forward.

      • elindio42

        I’m going to predict they use another player for punts, probably Cedric Wilson.

        Austin has a long history of fumbles on punts. This can be a game changer.

  • MissFelonyStrutter

    Listen this is really for the old school Cowboys fans and they will understand where I am coming from, so Triplets era born players, listen up. Believe it or not it was the Cowboys who invented the term or special position of the “Third down back.” In all honesty you can trace it back to Dan Reeves, especially after his second knee injury and he became a situational player. However Coach Landry always wanted a better athelete for that role and that is EXACTLY what was born with Preston Pearson. Preston Pearson was a half back used as a third down receiver and for gimmick players like reverses and the option shovel pass. Also he ran routes better than most receivers. He was so vital to our mid to late 70’s success, a true key in our winning and he was replaced by Ron Springs. After that than we lost that type of back under Landry because they just had everything run through Herschel. When Jimmy got here that “third down” back went away and was to never be remotely tried again until the drafting of Michael Wiley out of Ohio State. This role has only worked out with one player and that is or as Lance Dunbar. However we all know how injuries ruined his career. Well truth be told the week before the draft they worked out Dunbar and were going to sign him but they put out a feeler to the Rams and they responded, Dunbar was not signed. The way I would like to see him used is like Preston Pearson. I have been SCREAMING for a Preston Pearson for decades. Dunbar should have been used more when healthy. However you get these idiot fans that just want to re-create the Triplets over and over again, which means never take off Emmitti (now ZEKE). Chris Carter was a good change up back but that was power and he could catch. I hoped Sherman Williams would have turned into that role but we know what happened to him. So I can see Tayvon doing what Dunbar and Whitehead did. They cannot list him as a running back or he has to change his number. So I can see him being listed as a receiver and being lined up as a half back sometimes.
    Now what you DID NOT bring up is something that quite honestly, I don’t know why you did not bring it up. It is why he was available, he is a turnover (fumble) machine. In the past two years he has fumbled 11 times. Honestly, Ryan Switzer is built better than him to be an occasional running back and perfect for a third down receiver. Maybe Tayvon is a little faster or more explosive off the line but I really wish we gave Ryan a look. Ryan is a SMART player as demonstrated last year when in Washington he adjusted to another Dak duck special. Not only did Ryan stay in bounds to keep the clock running he had to make a huge adjustment with this body. Man literally knelt on the sideline and tried to cut back inside. Smart player, Ryan is younger, less injuries and on a fist NFL deal. However we did not and our former special coach wanted him. So I can invision Tayvon doing a mixture of what Dunbar and Whitehead. IN a perfect world I would have him to those things but also more things that Preston Pearson did. However I know for shit sure he is not as smart as a player that Preston was and he has fumble issues. I love the idea of having this kind of back, just it not being him to do it. I hate the trade then and I hate it even more now. Again, I want this type of position on the team. I have been yelling for it since Springs was released in 1985. Honestly it is how Dorsett should have been used in 1987and 1988 but nope we stopped playing him ad traded him. Sad is that now Dorsett admits he was wrong and wishes he did do what Preston Pearson did in his later stages.
    I am sorry, I love the idea of this position coming back into our scheme but I hate this it is this guy with all of his fumble issues. I am not happy this article did not talk about his fumble issues. People ask yourself, the Rams are really creative why would they let him go? Well you have your reason and they also said he was not “coachable.”
    That does not make me happy. I am all for re-creating the Landry style offense and it looks in some ways like we are beginning to do that. That would be music to my ears because out best offensive schemes and players were under Landry. I know many of you are wanting to start yelling to me about the Triplets and this is when I say shut up because under Landry, we were NOT predictable. Remember all of the talk we heard the past few years, “we’re predictable?” Yeah well that is what you get when you want to re-create the Triplets era all over again. Please in 90’s we were predictable it’s just that our talent was so massive you could not stop it. Well in 1997 they did and even before that. However under Landry we were NOT predictable and the ball was spread around so much more than the Triplets era. I see the type of receivers we are getting now. Players that beat you running routes, not players just be more physical to get open or a height size differential for jump balls. No, I see what they are wanting to do and I like it. Only question is, do we have the QB to execute it. Because Landry’s offense went down the field a lot more. Again it goes back to the receivers we are moving to. Drew Pearson, Tony Hill, Butch Johnson, Golden Richards, Doug Donley, Preston Pearson, Lance Alworth, Hayes etc. They beat you with speed and route running and that is what I see we are trying to re-create and THAT is the best sign in Cowboys football I have seen in two, close to three decades. We still have a 90’s era receiver in Noah Brown which I like,we just don’t have 3 more of him on the team. We need more speed in our offense, spread the ball around which leads to creativity and better route running. You know, it has been said that Coach Jason does not like gimmick plays and things of that nature. Well I call bullshit on that. Jason just never had those type of players to try and do these things. He did one time with our O and that was a pass by Dez. I think you will see a lot more creativity and gimmicks this season because of the players, style of players we are changing to. Oh I need to say this. We could have seen more creativity the past few years, especially last year with Ryan but we had a problem on our offense. Sadly that was #82 Jason Witten. Now I love Witten like every one else. Jason was an all time great. However Jason NEVER wanted to come off the field. He would not listen to our coaches when told to come off the field so we could not run 10 personnel packages, We could not go five wide because #82 refuses to come off the field. That is one thing I will not miss about Jason and it was hurting our football team. Now, we can be much ore creative.
    Question is, do you really want to do it with a guy that has fumbled 11 FRIGGIN TIMES IN 2 YEARS like Austin?? That should have been in the article.

    • Shane Gotcher

      That is an awesome post. Thank you for taking the time and sharing. I think you should be less worried about the fumbles because Austin will be getting the ball 4 to 7 times a game in Dallas. I really doubt that they are going to make him a legit “3rd down back”. Why would they, they have Elliot who is already one of the best 3rd down backs in the league? He’s only 22 years old and will have that long run threat for another 5 years or so. What Austin gives you is just what you hinted at with your Witten comments, they can go spread more often. This is good for Prescott who can make more quick reads and use his legs against a spread out defense. You might want this to be a more downfield offense but the truth is that Dak is not a good downfield passer. He’s not even the accurate short spread passer you (we) would like him to be, but he has young legs and makes quick decisions, and that’s why you want a player like Austin along with the other changes they made. This will be a different offense. Weirdly more like the Rams of old. Too bad for Austin that he missed out on that era with the Rams. I do think you are right that they should have gambled on Switzer for a similar roll, but this is just how the draft worked out. They got Austin for a steal, and that gave them a chance to add a DT that they had rated higher than anyone they could draft on the 3rd day. If Ward works out, the Cowboys won. If he doesn’t, you might be right that they should have rolled with Switzer.

  • NC

    DON’T FORGET THE TURNOVERS, HE IS ALSO A FUMBLING MACHINE.

  • Ervinlang318

    I really Hope the Coaching Staff use him correctly and not just run out the same old predictable plays with better personnel

  • http://www.dallascowboyschat.com Cowboysdude

    Yes if they know how to use him…..which I’m 98% sure garrettkeet hasn’t a clue…

  • Tommy Davis

    Great article Brian, you’re absolutely right on. As for all the naysayers, it’s like I’ve been saying all along, folks within and outside of the Cowboys organization seems to have a problem when it comes to talented players. They would rather be average or below average, that’s why they will never compete with the upper echelon teams because those teams put the most talented players on the field.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Face Latest Challenge Fighting for First Road Win at Redskins

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Face Latest Challenge Fighting for First Road Win at Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys 40-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars feels like just the introduction to this season's story. Whether or not the body of this story tells a disappointing tale or one of triumph can be revealed as early as this Sunday.

When the Cowboys travel to Washington, they'll be looking for their first road win of the season, and with it the NFC East lead over a Redskins team that would fall to 3-3 and 0-1 inside the division.

Early season losses at the Panthers, Seahawks, and Texans do little in predicting the Cowboys faith at the Redskins. These three teams are a combined 6-2 at home this season, with the Cowboys most recent loss in Houston falling much more on coaching than it did on-field execution.

Making their week six win over the NFL's top defense look extraordinarily easy, the Cowboys continued on a seemingly timeless trend under Jason Garrett. Returning to AT&T Stadium at 2-3, the Cowboys won their 12th game at one under .500 under Garrett.

Their 378 total yards on offense against the Jaguars brought their average in three home games up to 363.3, nearly 88 yards better than their road performances this season. The Redskins have allowed 326.2 yards per game this season, ranked fifth in the league just behind the Cowboys at 315.2 yards a game.

Garrett has gone 11-4 in his head coaching career against the Redskins, winning his last five at FedEx Field by an average of less than 10 points a game. The Redskins have turned the ball over just five times this season and allow a stout 90.2 rushing yards per game, meaning this game has all the makings of another classic between historic NFC East rivals.

In an ongoing effort to learn just who these 2018 Cowboys really are, a close win on the road would go a long way, beyond the slack they were afforded earlier this season to tighten up their game and make a serious push for the division.

The Cowboys will be on their bye week following Sunday's game. It comes at the perfect time for players like Sean Lee, Chidobe Awuzie, and Tavon Austin. With Austin struggling to make a sustained impact in the Cowboys offense, Awuzie conceding snaps to Jourdan Lewis, and Lee looking on at Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch dominate at LB, these three Cowboys among plenty of others know how important this game is for remaining relevant down the stretch.

Shortening this rivalry's history to just the games quarterbacked by Dak Prescott, the Cowboys are 3-0 with Prescott completing 65.3% of his passes - easily his highest mark against any NFC East foe.

The Cowboys confidence in getting to 4-3 should rest in Prescott using both his arm and legs to give the Cowboys the lead, than force Alex Smith to beat this defense.

The Redskins aren't a team that will beat themselves, leaving this one for the taking of a Cowboys team buried after week five's loss and crowned NFC East leaders 'elect' by week seven. A funny game this NFL is, and one the Cowboys don't want to play around with too much when considering Sunday's opponent - as well as the task at hand of earning a win on the road the latest in a season since 2013 for Dallas.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Face Latest Challenge Fighting for First Road Win at Redskins" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

Cowboys Defense Getting Players Back at the Right Time

John Williams

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Could Any of These 3 Cowboys Disappoint Cowboys Nation in 2017?

The Dallas Cowboys have played really well on defense this season allowing the seventh fewest rushing yards per game, the third lowest yards per carry, and the eighth fewest passing yards per game this season. They've done it for most of the 2018 season without Defensive Tackles Maliek Collins and David Irving, and Linebacker Sean Lee, who's missed the last three games with a strained hamstring.

This week the Cowboys play the NFC East leading Washington Redskins, making this a very important matchup for the Cowboys playoff chances. The Dallas Cowboys are 2-2 in the NFC in 2018, so a win against the Washington Redskins on Sunday carries much more importance. If the Cowboys have hopes of making the playoffs, they're going to have to improve their record against the NFC and they can on Sunday with their defense getting back to (nearly) full health.

Still awaiting word on Chidobe Awuzie's availability for this week.

Antwaun Woods, Tyrone Crawford, and David Ross have held up really well on the Cowboys defensive interior without Irving and Collins, which makes their return even more important. Better depth along the defensive interior is only going to help those guys have more productive snaps. Both Collins and Irving are explosive penetrating defensive tackles that give interior offensive lineman fits with their combination of strength and quickness. They play the run and pass with equal effectiveness and make life a lot easier for the linebackers and the defensive ends.

In their first game back in week six, Irving and Collins combined for two quarterback pressures, a quarterback hit (Irving) and a sack (Collins). Irving also drew a holding call on a punt.

Getting them back takes so much pressure off the defensive ends to generate pressure in passing situations. With better pressure from the interior of the defense, DeMarcus Lawrence and the other defensive ends will have better opportunities for sacks because opposing quarterbacks won't be able to step up in the pocket with as much ease as they have through the first five games of the season.

The linebacker duo of Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch have been one of the best position groups for the Cowboys this season. As good as they've been, Sean Lee is still one of the better linebackers in the NFL. Though he's leading the Cowboys in solo tackles with 43, Leighton Vander Esch probably sees a decrease in his snaps with Lee returning. They'll all play, however, and the Cowboys will look for ways to have them all on the field together.

Getting Lee, Irving, and Collins on the field at the same time with the defensive parts that the Cowboys already boast in Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Byron Jones is going to make playing offense nearly impossible.

How do you attack these guys?

The Washington Redskins rank in the bottom third in passing yards, yards per attempt, and are 18th in the NFL in passer rating. Washington ranks in the top half of the league in rushing yards per game, but rank 23rd in yards per attempt.

If there's an area where the Dallas Cowboys defense has been susceptible this season it's against the pass and having all of their best defensive players available for this week seven NFC East matchup is going to make all the difference. They'll be able to generate pressure with fewer blitzes because of the ability of Irving and Collins to generate pressure from the interior.

Though the Redskins have had some success on the ground in 2018, it's going to be tough sledding for Adrian Peterson and the Redskins run game. Lee, Vander Esch, and Smith all play the run extremely well and with the improved talent at defensive tackle, Peterson is going to find very few open lanes against the Dallas Cowboys defense.

The elite defense that we imagined this team could be may be right around the corner. Having everyone healthy and on the field together as the Dallas Cowboys get ready for the stretch run of the NFL season is huge.

Get ready NFL. Points are going to be really hard to come by.



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Player News

Report: Austin Heading to IR: Deonte Thompson is the Next Man Up

John Williams

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Wide Receiver Deonte Thompson Making Preseason Debut Vs. Cardinals

Tavon Austin's stint with the Dallas Cowboys has been up and down through six games. He's provided some big play ability on the outside, but hasn't really had the running room on jet sweeps that the Dallas Cowboys would have hoped for when they acquired Austin from the Los Angeles Rams during the 2018 NFL Draft.

Now it's being reported by Brandon George from the Dallas Morning News that Austin may be headed to injured reserve for a groin tear suffered in the Dallas Cowboys week six win over the Jaguars.

Brandon George on Twitter

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said WR Tavon Austin will be getting a second opinion on his injured right groin in the next day or so. He didn't discount possibility of him being placed on injured reserve.

 

Whether Austin goes to injured reserve or not remains to be seen, but we do know that he'll miss week seven and likely won't be able to suit up for a while. Though Austin hasn't been relied upon much, he has been a threat that opposing defenses have had to account for in both the passing and running game. Tavon Austin leaves a bit of a hole.

Enter Deonte Thompson.

Deonte Thompson, who was signed by the Dallas Cowboys this past offseason, hasn't been the same type of rushing threat that Austin has been in his NFL career. Thompson's only carried the ball two times in his career for -5 yards. However, Thompson has some skills that could bode well should the Dallas Cowboys decide to use him in the jet sweep role that Austin is vacating.

He's been a return threat in his NFL career, averaging 24.8 yards per return. He's had returns of 47, 64, and 74 yards. He's also had some good moments running after the catch in his career, though he hasn't gotten many opportunities.

Thompson's a former track athlete and before the 2012 NFL Draft ran a 4.30 40 yard dash. He has the speed and a bit more size than Austin to make some things happen if given the opportunities.

The jet sweep has become an important staple in the Dallas Cowboys offense. Even when they don't hand it off on the sweep, they use it in play action, to set up screens, and even to get the defense thinking about it on direct hand offs to Ezekiel Elliott. They aren't going to want to scrap that part of the playbook just because Austin will be sitting out. Deonte Thompson can be that guy. Much like Marquise Goodwin in San Francisco, Thompson has elite speed.

He's not just football fast. He's fast-fast.

When I was in high school, I played baseball. In the baseball program I was fast. The fastest on the team. That was my game. Infield singles. Stretching doubles to triples. Stealing bases. I was fast. I went out for track my senior season because I thought, "hey I'm fast, let's see what would happen if I ran the 100-meter-dash." I found out really quickly that there is a difference between baseball fast and track fast.

The same applies to football and track. Deonte Thompson is track fast. He's a guy that the Dallas Cowboys need to get the ball to on those jet sweeps to continue to threaten defenses sideline to sideline. When it's working, as we've seen with Lucky Whitehead in the past and Tavon Austin this year, it opens up a lot for the Dallas Cowboys offense.

It's likely that Cole Beasley gets those first jet sweep attempts, and as a trusted veteran for the Dallas Cowboys, he probably should. But, if Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan want to continue to use the jet sweep to the offense's maximum benefit, they need to start showing it with Deonte Thompson. He has the speed to get to the corner and take it to the end zone from any where on the field.

Here's an example of what Thompson can do with the ball in his hands.

NFL on Twitter

109 YARDS TO THE HOUSE!!! Deonte Thompson returns the missed field goal and runs it all the way back for a @ChicagoBears TD! #CHIvsAZ https://t.co/k9IfkZMoIY

 

With Tavon Austin set to be out -- possibly for the season -- it's time to see what Deonte Thompson can do. The Dallas Cowboys need to get a win here to get above .500 for the first time this season and set themselves up to make a run at the divisional crown. Deonte Thompson's ability with the ball in his hands will give them a good opportunity to do just that.



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