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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

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

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

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

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 am currently a college student. Lets get going.

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6 Comments
  • Chet

    I am a WVU fan and to say not to use him between the tackles is a misconception. He can run, especially with this offensive line, between the tackles and he can do it very well. I do agree that we should shouldn’t do this very many times a game but mix in a few inside runs with all the other stuff, I guarantee he will exceed your expectations. He proved that he was WVU’s best running back, I think they should have kept him at running back full time after he shredded University of Texas.

  • Bret Lewis

    I want to believe the hype on Tavon Austin. I really do. I just have a hard time believing that Jason Garret and Scott Linehan see something in him that Sean McVay didn’t.

    • Joe Conti

      Why they used lucky whitehead to precision. He was spot on deadly when on dallas

      • Ismael Ramirez

        Cause whitehead couldn’t be trusted with the foot ball he fumbled to much and that made him a one trick pony. Lots of speed small hands

        • Joe Conti

          Im saying Linehan was able to utilize Whitehead even with his flaws as a deadly weapon not a stretch to think he can do more with Austin

    • Ismael Ramirez

      Sean isn’t a god his just a coach that pumped up a team all first year coaches do that plus teams caught up to his little tricks at the end of the season you watch this year I give them 9&7

Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.

Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.

Cambios de Coach

A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.

A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.

Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?

El Draft

A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.

A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.

En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.

Decisiones difíciles

La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.

Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.

Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.

No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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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Star Blog

Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story

Kevin Brady

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.

Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.

Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.

Here's why those people are wrong.

Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.

Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).

Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.

There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.

Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.

Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.

Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.

Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.

And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.



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Star Blog

Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?

Brian Martin

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Can Dak Prescott Regain His Mojo Against Atlanta?
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.

It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.

Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.

Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.

Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.

Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:

24 starts
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating

Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:

17 starts
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating

As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.

Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

Now, he just has to go out and prove it!

Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?



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