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Film Room: How Cowboys Can Utilize “Playmaker” Tavon Austin

Kevin Brady

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Film Review: Tavon Austin Adds Explosive Element to Cowboys Offense

I don't know if any one player has caused more debate or controversy among Cowboys fans the last few months than newcomer Tavon Austin.

First, fans were shocked and confused when the Cowboys not only traded for Austin on draft day but then traded away second year wide receiver Ryan Switzer not-long-after. Switzer had become a bit of a fan favorite in Dallas, and the trade was surprising to say the least.

Arguments also ensued about what the Cowboys even saw in Austin, who's lackluster production and inconsistency allowed the Rams to trade him away for just a day three draft pick in return.

Then came the controversy over what to call Austin. Is he a receiver? Is he a running back? Does it even matter?

Well, if the Cowboys plan to use Tavon Austin in the way it is anticipated, then no. The designation of what a player "is" really doesn't matter, especially as both offenses and defenses move toward hybrid types in this next evolution of the game.

But what do the Cowboys see in Tavon Austin? And can they really find a way to make whatever they see in him effective in what some consider a "vanilla" offense in Dallas?

Probably the most obvious fit for Tavon Austin with the Cowboys is in the jet motion package of plays. With his speed and burst Austin fits the bill of a jet motion player, forcing defenses to tip their hand and giving the offense a lot of options at the snap of the ball.

They could hand Austin the ball on a jet sweep, they could run play action and use him as a receiver out of the motion, or they could even simply just use his motion as misdirection to muddy up the defenders' reads.

The Cowboys found success using Lucky Whitehead in those jet sweep plays in 2016, and were unable to replace his production/threat with Ryan Switzer in 2017. It would make sense for them to try Tavon Austin in this role.

tavon austin study

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This jet motion was used against the Cowboys plenty in 2017, as we see in the play above. Here Austin is used in play action to draw the linebackers and safeties attention. As you can see, each of the playside second level defenders snap their eyes to Austin at the mesh point.

This distraction allows running back Todd Gurley to get out of the backfield and behind the defenders, taking his reception for a touchdown right up the seam.

Dallas has been reluctant to use Ezekiel Elliott as a downfield pass catcher, but Austin's presence could open up opportunity for them to do so.

During this same game, Tavon Austin ran the ball 6 times for 48 yards, most of which came off the jet motion. Dallas' linebackers lacked the speed to contain Austin, and were forced bite on the play fake allowing Gurley the easy touchdown on this particular play.

tavon austin study 3

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Rams head coach Sean McVay was also able to get Tavon Austin the ball on the perimeter in other ways in 2017. Against the Giants here, we see Austin motion to what is essentially a traditional single back look. Austin never stops his motion, however, and receives the pitch on a toss play.

The Rams get blockers out in front and allow Austin space to work with and a running start prior to hitting the line of scrimmage. They utilize a pin-and-pull on the perimeter, getting their left tackle up and through to the second level.

The Cowboys have wide outs who can block, and of course have the athletic left tackle who can pull and lead as well.

tavon austin study 2

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

Another "creative" way the Rams got Austin the ball in 2017 was by simply lining him up as a regular running back. Of course, you aren't going to ask the 5'9" 175 pound runner to pound it between the tackles like Ezekiel Elliott, but you can get him on the perimeter and in space from the backfield as well.

If Tavon Austin is going to be effective in Dallas, Scott Linehan is going to have to do some things which seem counter-intuitive to the Cowboys current roster construction. Mainly, he will need to start utilizing 10 personnel to open up the offense and allow Austin more room to work with.

Even if he refuses to do so on a regular basis, however, Austin can still be an interesting change of place player out of jet motion packages. He can be used to muddy up defenders' reads and keep linebackers honest off the play action.

It' s important to remember that he is a receiver, however, and I do believe Austin should be asked to run routes no matter his alignment.

Unlike much of Cowboys Nation, I have faith that the Cowboys have a vision for how Tavon Austin will work within their offense, even if he only fills that role for a single season.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.

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Dak Prescott Impresses, Draws Compliments All Minicamp Long

Kevin Brady

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Dak Prescott and Coaches Both to Blame for Cowboys Offensive Woes
James D. Smith via AP

Dak Prescott stood before the media Thursday in a Stetson Cowboy hat, answering questions about his upcoming contract extension.

“I’ve got my cowboy hat on, so I’m a Cowboy, we’ll say that.”

Prescott has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback of America's Team, and now it's time for the franchise to pay him like it. Set to earn roughly $34 million per year (according to recent rumors/reports), Prescott is going to be a very rich and comfortable man in the near future.

But, for now, he still plays under his fourth round rookie contract. You wouldn't be able to tell by watching him on the field, however. Though it was just minicamp, Prescott was impressive as ever over the last couple weeks of practice, earning praise from all levels within the organization.

Veteran Jason Witten complimented both Prescott's anticipation and accuracy, saying his throws have been "off the charts" at minicamp. Prescott himself said that this is the best he's felt since he's entered the league, and it certainly makes sense for this to be the case.

"Is it three years under my belt or just seeing defenses a whole lot more clear, being quicker and faster in everything I want to do, having great teammates around me? Who really knows the answer, but I feel great. I feel confident, and my teammates do, as well.” - Prescott to DallasCowboys.com

If Prescott was ever going to be comfortable, hungry, and ready to go, this is likely the time that it would happen. He has three relatively successful seasons under his belt, and ended 2018 on the best stretch of his career. He is the unquestioned starting quarterback for this team, and has the backing of every key decision maker in the building.

Prescott now has an offensive coordinator who he has not only worked closely with (in some capacity) since he entered the league in 2016, but is also being lauded for his creativity as an offensive mastermind. His quarterbacks coach, Jon Kitna, has been receiving similar praise for how he can coach up Prescott and get his footwork consistent, to help him "throw it through a Fruit Loop."

The time is now for Dak Prescott, and it's encouraging to see how he is responding to this increased pressure and responsibility. Then again we should have no doubt that he will respond positively, as he as throughout his entire young career.

Whenever faced with adversity, Prescott has answered the bell. Now he has all the supporters he needs, and just needs to prove them right.



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Does RB Ezekiel Elliott Have A Chance At NFL MVP?

Kevin Brady

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Ezekiel Elliott

Who is the Cowboys best player?

A question debated seemingly daily on social media, most fans seem to center their arguments around the same few names. Dak Prescott, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Ezekiel Elliott.

As a running back, it's quite possible that Elliott is both the best of that bunch and the least important to the team's overall success. NFL.com's Adam Schein disagrees with the latter statement, however, placing Ezekiel Elliott among his top ten contenders for 2019 NFL MVP.

"I think the Cowboys are going to challenge for the Super Bowl in 2019 -- and I think Zeke fuels this team. When Elliott runs for 95-plus yards, the Cowboys are 19-4; when he falls below that benchmark, they're 9-8." - Adam Schein

Schein's prediction will no doubt make Cowboys Nation swoon, but does Elliott really have the opportunity to compete for an MVP award?

For one, this would require the Cowboys be among the best teams in the league this season. It's quite possible, as they did win 10 regular season and 1 playoff game a year ago, but it will have to happen once again for Elliott to be considered.

Next, Ezekiel Elliott would have to put up incredible numbers. Well, it's safe to assume this will likely be the case if condition one is met. Elliott is going to get a lot of opportunities to touch the ball each game, and finding himself among the league's rushing leaders has never been an issue for the young running back. Especially if the team has a lead and is running the ball to kill clock.

Even if both these conditions prove true, though, Elliott will still have trouble getting himself in the real MVP discussion. These awards tend to go to certain positions, and running back is not among that list. If Dallas has such a successful 2019, and their offense is clicking, it's more likely Dak Prescott will be the one contending for that MVP honor.

I know to some it sounds crazy, but Prescott will likely need to be closer to MVP level than Elliott if the Cowboys are to contend in the way Adam Schein suggests in his article.

So, likely, Schein should have named Prescott among his top ten MVP contenders, not Elliott.



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Amari Cooper Says He’s Focused On Football, Not His Next Contract

Kevin Brady

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Report: Cowboys Waiting Until After Season for Amari Cooper Contract Talks 1

It seems like all anyone has talked about this offseason is who the Cowboys should re-sign, and how they can go about doing so.

Wide receiver Amari Cooper, of course, is heavily involved in those conversations. The Cowboys used their 2019 first round pick to trade for the Pro Bowl wide out last season, and Cooper's emergence helped to turn their struggling offense around immediately.

In just 9 games with the Cowboys last season, he caught 53 passes for 725 yards and 6 touchdowns. He quickly gained the trust of quarterback Dak Prescott, and exhibited a chemistry with the young passer that no one else really has to this point. Outside of maybe Cole Beasley in 2016, perhaps.

While the football world seems to be focusing on what Amari Cooper's contract will look like after 2019, the receiver himself claims to be solely focused on the upcoming season. Cooper spoke with ESPN's Todd Archer about this very subject, emphasizing where his mind lies at this time.

"I just handle my business...I'm more anxious about camp and actually playing football." - Amari Cooper.

Amari Cooper has just one year left on his contract as he plays under the fifth year option from his rookie deal. Cooper will make $13.9 million this season, putting him behind some of the league's other WR1s like Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, and DeAndre Hopkins.

There had been speculation around whether any of the Cowboys left with just one year on their contract would hold-out through parts of offseason activity, but Cooper alluded that it never seemed to cross his mind.

"I just want to get better and I love football. That's why I'm here" - Cooper.

Of course, Amari Cooper will play a huge role in the Cowboys offense in 2019. Combining him with a second year version of Michael Gallup, and new versatile threats like Tony Pollard and Randall Cobb, will help make the Dallas passing game as multiple as it's been in years.

The Cowboys will eventually need to get Amari Cooper locked up long term, but for the time being it seems like both he and the franchise are more focused on what will happen on the field in 2019 than in the negotiating room next Spring.



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