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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

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

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.

Player News

Maliek Collins Playing Excellent for Cowboys Defense

John Williams

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Maliek Collins

For the Dallas Cowboys on the interior, a lot of the news consistently surround the availability of Defensive Tackle David Irving, but Maliek Collins is playing excellent right now. While I'm willing to be very patient with Irving because of the elite talent he brings, Maliek Collins should continue to start for the Dallas Cowboys at 3-technique defensive tackle.

Collins has been a player that the Cowboys have bounced between the nose tackle and the 3T position with the hopes of getting their best players on the field, and because of the lack of a consistent presence at the 1-technique or nose tackle position. Well, with Antwaun Woods taking control at the 1T, Collins has been able to play at the position where he's at his best. The 3-tech.

He hasn't put huge numbers in the sack column this season, but that doesn't mean he's been absent from being the disruptive player he's been through his first two and a half seasons.

During the Dallas Cowboys five game winning streak, Maliek Collins has led the Dallas Cowboys defensive tackles in total pressures with 13, according to Pro Football Focus. PFF combines sacks, quarterback hits, and hurries into their "pressures." Collins hasn't recorded a sack during the winning streak, but he has four quarterback hits and nine hurries. He's tied with Tyrone Crawford for third in total pressures behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory over the last five weeks.

Over the last five weeks, Collins leads the defensive tackles in solo tackles with five and is tied with Crawford and Antwaun Woods with three run stops on defense, according to Pro Football Focus. Collins has also has two tackles for loss in the last five games and recovered Tyrone Crawford's force fumble on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Collins had six sacks in his rookie season when he played primarily as the 3T, which allowed him to see more one-on-one blocks against opposing interior offensive linemen. Especially with the way the rest of the defensive line is playing.

With the Cowboys on the road to face the Indianapolis Colts this week, Collins is going to have a tough matchup with a very good Colts offensive line, in particular, rookie Quentin Nelson. Collins ability to get pressure on Andrew Luck on the interior is a huge key for the Dallas Cowboys this week. We know that Gregory and Lawrence will get their pressures, but if Andrew Luck is able to step up into a clean pocket, it will make for a much more challenging game for the Cowboys secondary.

Collins has proved to be up to any task over the last five weeks and if he's able to keep playing at such a high level, he'll make the Cowboys coaching staff, and the rest of Cowboys Nation forget about using other defensive tackles. For the Cowboys to make a deep push in the playoffs, they'll need Collins to be a big time player for them moving forward.



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Game Notes

#INDvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction

Kevin Brady

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Has RB Rod Smith Emerged As Ezekiel Elliott's Primary Backup? 2
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

For once, the Cowboys are not playing what feels like a do-or-die game on Sunday, needing just 1 win over their final 3 to win the NFC East. This week the 8-5 Cowboys go on the road to face the 7-6 Colts, with each times vying for playoff spots in their respective conferences.

Both the Cowboys and Colts have turned around what looked like dead seasons, but there is no doubt the Colts need this one more than the Cowboys do to keep pace for the 6th seed in the AFC.

The Line

Cowboys +3, O/U 47 points. 

Dallas Cowboys

The once 3-5 Cowboys are now head and shoulders above the rest of their division, after winning their fifth straight in thrilling fashion over the Eagles last Sunday. The team which seemed so disjointed and inconsistent through 8 games has found their identity, and is playing complete team football as of late.

Dak Prescott is coming off a career-best game in terms of yardage, and despite some poor turnovers is still playing some of the best football of his career. This is due in large part to two stars in Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott, who have shouldered the production load of this offense the last 5 weeks.

And, of course, there is the defense which continues to make life a living hell for opposing offenses. Randy Gregory is coming into his own as a pass rusher, getting another sack last week and getting flagged for what should have been his second sack of the day.

Dallas is playing the brand of football they told us they would before the season, and are beginning to make their front office and decision makers look very smart in the process.

Indianapolis Colts

At 7-6 and fighting for the final AFC playoff spot, the Colts need this one more than the Cowboys do. Getting shut out by the lowly Jaguars two weeks ago may ultimately keep the Colts out of the playoffs, but a win this Sunday and a little help elsewhere could set them up nicely down the stretch.

Indy has quietly one of the best passing offenses in all of the NFL, with star quarterback Andrew Luck playing his best football in quite some time. Luck is healthy and looks like himself again, and the selection of Quenton Nelson to sure-up the offensive line has gone a long way to improving this offense as well.

Defensively the Colts have been even more impressive lately. Though they have a roster comprised of no-names nationally, the Colts defense is 11th in DVOA. Darius Leonard has been a revelation for the Colts at linebacker, and their young defense seems to be improving by the week.

The Colts are coming off of a big road victory over the Houston Texans a week ago, and will look to defeat the Texans' in-state rivals on Sunday to improve to 8-6.

Trends

  • The Cowboys are 5-0 against the spread their last 5 games, and have won all 5 straight up.
  • The score total has hit the over 4 of the Cowboys' last 6 games.
  • But the score total has gone under 4 of the Colts' last 5 games.
  • The Colts are 4-1 straight up their last 5 home games.
  • Dallas is 6-3 their last 9 games against the Colts.

Prediction

The Cowboys' winning streak has to end at some point, right?

Well, unlike Vegas, I don't expect that ending to happen on Sunday. The Cowboys have been playing desperate football over the last 5 games and they are well aware what a win over Indianapolis would mean.

A victory would clinch them a division title for the third time in five years, and just as they did in 2014, I expect the Cowboys to get that clinching victory over the Colts. Give me the Cowboys and the points this week.



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Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018

Jess Haynie

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Amari Cooper

For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote

As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.

Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.

Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.

His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!



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