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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

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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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DL Kerry Hyder Helps Solidify A Re-Tooled Defensive Line

Kevin Brady

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DL Kerry Hyder Helps Solidify A Re-Tooled Defensive Line

The Cowboys got off to a busy start to week two of free agency on Monday, and capped it off by signing defensive lineman Kerry Hyder to a one year deal.

The former Detroit Lion could be classified as a "one year wonder" of sorts, but when you look closer at his career arc, you see that Hyder can provide upside at multiple positions across the Cowboys' defensive front.

After having 8 sacks and 19 quarterback hits as a defensive end in 2016, Hyder missed all of 2017 with an achilles injury. Last season, under new head coach Matt Patricia, Hyder was moved out of position and forced to play as a nose tackle and 5-technique more often.

So, the last time Hyder was healthy and playing in the role in he will likely fill in Dallas, he was productive. Yes that was a couple of seasons ago but it makes Hyder worth the one year deal he received from the Cowboys.

What exactly is that role, though?

I see Hyder primarily as a rotational 3-technique for the Cowboys. At just 270 pounds Hyder isn't going to play over the center often, and won't be very useful as a 1-technique against the run. He's at his best when lining on the outside shade of an offensive lineman, where he can use his get-off and quickness to create pressure.

Kerry Hyder can also fill in at defensive end if needed, especially when the Cowboys go into a nickel package. Hyder is similar to Tyrone Crawford in his ability to move inside and out, but is a bit better of a pass rusher than Crawford when at his best.

Hyder is a high energy, motor, and character defensive lineman who will fit right in with a Rod Marinelli unit. If it all clicks for Hyder and he regains his 2016 form, the Cowboys will have stolen an impressive pass rushing defensive lineman who can win from multiple positions.

If Hyder is actually a "one year wonder" who is more of his 2018-self with the Cowboys despite being put in a better role to succeed, Dallas can move on rather quickly because he is only on a one year deal.

This is a smart signing by the Cowboys front office as they look to re-tool their defensive line, and avoid being pigeon-holed into over-drafting at a certain position this Spring.



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New Cowboys WR Randall Cobb Announces His Signing With A Fantastic GIF

Kevin Brady

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New Cowboys WR Randall Cobb Announces His Signing With A Fantastic GIF

On Tuesday this week it became official the Cowboys would sign former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb to a one year deal worth an estimated $5 million. After his visit Monday morning, speculation around whether and when he would sign was swirling.

Cobb confirmed his intentions to join the Cowboys himself, and did so with some A+ GIF usage on Twitter.

Randall Cobb on Twitter

Randall Cobb on Twitter

https://t.co/9H9xfApFqe

In case you don't know, the GIF Cobb tweeted is Woody from Toy Story, emerging confidently and tipping his cap.

This was Cobb signaling that he his a Cowboy, and he appears excited to be joining America's Team. Cobb also received some social media love from his now former teammates in Green Bay, including wide receiver Davante Adams and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

https://twitter.com/tae15adams/status/1108158105957920770

RJ Ochoa on Twitter

Aaron Rodgers had some parting words for new Cowboys WR Randall Cobb

Clearly Randall Cobb made an impact in Green Bay, both on and off the field. Let's hope he can replicate some of that in Dallas now that he has joined the Cowboys.



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Malik McDowell Is Well Worth The Risk For The Dallas Cowboys

Kevin Brady

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Malik McDowell, Michigan State

The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly brining defensive lineman Malik McDowell into The Star this week for a visit, as they decide whether or not to potentially sign him for the 2019 season.

McDowell is a former second round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, who fell to day two because of what scouts call "off the field" or "character" concerns. McDowell did not last long with Seahawks, as he was released in 2017 following an ATV accident in which he reportedly suffered "extensive brain and eye trauma" according to Charles Robinson.

None of us know much about who Malik McDowell is as a person, or what concerns their really should be with his health. But what I do know is that on tape at Michigan State, McDowell was a top 5-10 player in the 2017 draft class. He was a stud, and has the traits to continue to be a stud in the NFL.

2017 NFL Draft: Scouting Michigan State DL Malik McDowell - Slant Sports

The 2017 NFL Draft is chock full of talented, athletic, and productive defensive linemen. While most of the draft pundits have focused on EDGE rushers thus far, the defensive tackle class also possesses some of this year's top NFL prospects. Arguably the best of those defensive tackles is Michigan State's Malik McDowell.

Back in 2017 I wrote a full scouting report on McDowell, detailing why he earned such a high grade on my board. McDowell is a versatile linemen who is explosive off the ball, powerful and rangy against the run, and a skilled pass rusher who plays with a high motor. What more could you really ask for?

"McDowell is a patient pass rusher at times, setting up the blocker how he likes and then beating them with ease. McDowell’s ability to swipe hands off helps him greatly, but his quick swim is his most effective pass rush move.

On this play he uses that swim to perfection, forcing the center to power down to the right before swimming back to the other side."

nfldraft malik mcdowell 3

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When the Spartans went to a three man pass rushing front, McDowell moved to the EDGE often and made plays with his quick, active hands and impressive swim move. He was much more impressive on the interior, however, and could be a direct replacement for David Irving as an explosive and powerful 3-technique for the Cowboys.

nfldraft malik mcdowell 4

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I love that the Cowboys are bringing McDowell in for a free agent visit. His price will likely be low, as he is yet to play in an NFL game over the last two years, but his ceiling remains very high if he is healthy. It's rare for a player with his college production, natural ability, and measurables to completely fail in the NFL.

Maybe all McDowell needs is a second chance to get his head right and prove that he belongs in the league. Maybe he flames out quickly and can't get on the field due to "off the field" stuff. Or, maybe he simply isn't healthy enough to contribute as an NFL player. Regardless, for the price he'll likely command, McDowell is well worth the risk if the Cowboys are willing to take it.



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