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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.

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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.

Game Notes

CIN 21, DAL 14: Dak Prescott Continues Strong Preseason in Loss

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott, Bengals

The games may not count yet, but Dak Prescott looks ready for the 2018 season. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback continued his strong preseason play in the team's 21-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Prescott played three series, going 10/15 for 86 yards and a touchdown. He got the offense out of trouble a few times with his feet, avoiding sacks and ultimately getting the scoring pass off on a redzone scramble.

Dak's strong play has coincided with shutdown performances from the starting defense. The Cowboys' first-team defenders have yet to allow a score in two preseason games. Tonight, the Bengals were forced into four punts and two turnovers on their first-half possessions.

Overall, the Cowboys are a combined 24-7 in the first halves of their first two preseason contests.

The second half has been the problem, and for two weeks now Dallas' reserves have squandered halftime leads and given up losses. Thankfully, most of the responsible players will not be on the final 53-man roster.

Other Notes

  • There were several concerning injuries for the Cowboys tonight. None was scarier than when All-Pro guard Zack Martin went out with a knee injury, but it does not appear to have been serious. Starting defensive backs Byron Jones and Xavier Woods also got banged up; Byron returned to the game but Woods did not. Defensive lineman Datone Jones also left with a knee injury.
  • Even more concerning was the play of the second-team offensive line. Chaz Green was typically awful, but we also saw swing tackle Cam Fleming struggling and just an overall lack of protection for the backups quarterbacks. Green got benched in the second half and may have finally played his way off the team.
  • Credit to Terrance Williams for getting open in the endzone to give Dak Prescott a receiver for the touchdown throw. Even with his warts, Williams' two years of experience playing with Dak can't be ignored in deciding who makes the team.
  • Tight end Blake Jarwin continues to run with the starters on offense and may have quietly taken the job away from Geoff Swaim.
  • Darius Jackson took advantage of some extra playing time tonight after Bo Scarbrough left with a hip injury. He broke off a few nice runs to amass 42 yards on just six carries, plus had four receptions.
  • We finally get to see Dan Bailey kick a field goal again, and it was an easy 35-yarder with no issues.
  • Shout out to Chidobe Awuzie for one of the pretty interceptions that a Cowboys DB has made in some time. Awuzie had to bend like Beckham (Odell, that is) to get a hand on the ball, then tipped it to himself for the pick.
  • Preseason fun continues for the Cowboys next Sunday when they host the Arizona Cardinals on NBC's Sunday Night Football.



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Game Notes

#DALvsCIN: Can WR Lance Lenoir Continue To Impress?

Kevin Brady

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Lance Lenoir

Entering training camp projecting who would make the final roster from the Dallas Cowboys wide receiving room was a crapshoot. The combination of misfits from other teams, unproven young guys, and a couple of Cowboys veterans makes this position group the most questioned across the entire roster.

But while Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup were stealing headlines, Lance Lenoir was making a name for himself among the Cowboys faithful.

After serving on the practice squad for the Cowboys a year ago, Lenoir seems to have entered 2018 with one goal in mind: to make the official game-day roster. And even if he falls short of this goal, it won't be due to any fault of his own.

Day in and day out Lance Lenoir has been a consistent wide out, catching nearly everything thrown his way and running some of the crisper routes on the team. Under new receivers coach Sanjay Lal, Lenoir has become a technical route runner and dangerous receiving threat.

Maybe most importantly for his future with the team, Lenoir has developed an obvious chemistry with starting quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott has continued to compliment Lenoir throughout training camp, and you know that the Cowboys front office is well aware of Prescott's trust in Lenoir on the field.

During the preseason opener against the 49ers, Lance Lenoir caught his first touchdown of the season, dazzling with his toe-tap ability. If he is going to steal a roster spot away from one of the more seasoned wide outs, however, he will have to remain that consistent target.

This Saturday, Lenoir gets another shot to prove why he's not only deserving of a roster spot, but of a starting spot. Sure, it might be a bit of a stretch, but if he continues to play like he has during camp and preseason, Lenoir could find himself working with the 1's more frequently.

Look out for Lance Lenoir against the Bengals this week, as he makes it harder and harder for the Cowboys to cut him by the second.



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys en Español: ¿Es Tavon Austin Más Importante de lo que Creemos?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Tavon Austin, Cowboys Best Playmaker Not Named Ezekiel Elliott?

Cada vez más cerca de la verdadera acción en la NFL, tuvimos una oportunidad de ver a los Dallas Cowboys en el campo contra los San Francisco 49ers hace una semana. Francamente, a pesar de perder la ventaja en los últimos segundos del partido, la actuación del equipo dio una muy buena señal a los aficionados de la Estrella Solitaria.

Todavía quedan tres partidos por jugar, empezando por el enfrentamiento contra los Cincinnati Bengals este sábado. Hay muchas cosas que ver de parte de los Dallas Cowboys y quizá algunas de ellas las veamos este mismo fin de semana.

Una de las cosas más interesantes esta semana fue la conversación de los wide receivers (receptores abiertos). Lance Lenoir se ha mostrado como un candidato real al roster de 53 jugadores, pero esa es sólo una pequeña fracción de la conversación de receptores.

Hay muchos receptores de que hablar, y el día de hoy, eso haremos en Cowboys en Español.

¿Cole Beasley es realmente el receptor #1?

A lo largo de todo el offseason, se ha manejado la narrativa de que "los Cowboys no tienen un buen WR." A pesar de que Dez Bryant es un nombre difícil de olvidar, esta aseveración sobre los receptores en Dallas me parece errónea.

Si bien es cierto que Bryant es uno de los mejores WRs en la historia de los Cowboys, también es cierto que Jason Garrett y compañía tienen un mejor grupo de lo que la afición considera. Si somos sinceros, un trío titular de Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley y Michael Gallup no suena mal.

La pregunta será: ¿quién es el #1? Comentarios de Dak Prescott han hecho referencia a Cole Beasley como el dueño de dicho rol. ¿Realmente puede fungir como el receptor líder del equipo siendo un jugador de 1.73 metros?

Se ha hablado mucho de Beasley jugando fuera de los números e intentando vencer a los defensivos por fuera. Es intrigante, pero sin duda un poco difícil de creer.

Tavon Austin: ¿Es un arma más importante de lo que creemos?

Los Cowboys dejaron ir a Ryan Switzer y obtuvieron a su aparente remplazo con el ex-WR de los Rams por una selección de sexta ronda. Tavon Austin ha tenido un viaje extraño con el equipo. Fue listado en el roster como un corredor pero utilizado como un receptor.

Lleva poco tiempo en Dallas pero ha sorprendido en training camp y ha sido utilizado como más de lo que esperábamos. Desde que llegó al equipo, empezamos a compararlo con Lucky Whitehead y Ryan Switzer. Ambos talentosos, pero destinados a ser un jugador "gadget" que fueron utilizados casi exclusivamente en jugadas "en movimiento" o los famosos "jet sweeps."

Pero Austin puede ser más que eso y lo ha demostrado en training camp. No parece que Tavon vaya a tener el mismo destino que Switzer, sino que tendrá un rol mucho más involucrado en la ofensiva constantemente. Bien puede ser un factor sorpresa para la ofensiva en Dallas.

¿Puede Terrance Williams perder su trabajo?

A pesar de que el coraje puede llevar a los aficionados a criticar a Terrance Williams un poco más de lo que merece, la verdad es que Williams está en riesgo de ser cortado por los Cowboys antes de que inicie la temporada en septiembre.

Es uno de los WRs con más experiencia, sí. Pero durante su estadía en Dallas, cada vez que Dez Bryant ha caído lesionado, Williams ha tenido la oportunidad de surgir como un receptor #1 capaz y preparado. Y nunca lo ha logrado.

Con un roster lleno de talentos jóvenes como el de Lance Lenoir y Noah Brown, es probable que la administración y los coaches opten por el potencial joven en vez de Williams, quien ha tenido problemas para demostrar que puede ser un jugador constante.

✭✭✭

Los Dallas Cowboys tienen que conseguir que su ofensiva sobreviva las pérdidas de Jason Witten y Dez Bryant y tendrán que comenzar en la posición de WR. A pesar de que Williams esté en el equipo, Cole Beasley será el único en repetir titularidad del año pasado en Dallas esta temporada.

Dak Prescott tendrá un rol enorme cuando la ofensiva trate de emprender su marcha y definitivamente será responsable del éxito de esta. Es ahora o nunca para Dak.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: ¿Es Tavon Austin Más Importante de lo que Creemos?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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