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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

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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 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

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Cowboys Bow to Seahawks – Hoping to Tame Lions in Week 4

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Cowboys Bow to Seahawks – Hoping to Tame Lions in Week 4

The Cowboys are now sharing space in the NFC East cellar with the Giants but are hoping to move out next week with a win against the Detroit Lions. Before they can do that, there is quite a bit that needs to be fixed and most of it comes on the offensive side of the ball.

Dak Prescott was 19-of-34 for 168 yards and it was the ninth time over the past 11 games, dating back to last season, that Dallas failed to pass for 200 yards. In a league where 300-yard passing games are not uncommon, and young guns like Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes are tossing four touchdowns a game, it's quite concerning that Dallas’s aerial attack is more like a mild affront.

Ezekiel Elliott has done his fair share of the heavy lifting for the offense this season and chewed up 127 yards of real estate in Sunday’s game with an almost eight yards per carry average. But even Elliott is experiencing his share of brain cramps in this offense after he was flagged for stepping out-of-bounds before making what would have been a touchdown reception, and then coughing up the ball in the fourth quarter causing a momentum-killing shift that sealed the deal for the Seahawks.

After three weeks of play, Dak Prescott has just two touchdown passes and both were to Tavon Austin. The offensive line, once regarded as the league’s gold standard, has struggled with rookie Guard Connor Williams, a second-round pick out of Texas, getting schooled more than a few times thus far after making the shift from college tackle to NFL guard.

Center Travis Frederick’s absence is being felt as well but the glimmer of hope is that once he gets back to feeding the ball to Prescott, the offensive line will more closely resemble the impenetrable unit to which we’ve become accustomed.

Dwelling on a bad loss and wringing our hands about a lack of offensive production will only get us so far, therefore, whenever we look ahead to what awaits we check over a review of Bovada one of the most trusted and reliable online sportsbook in the industry. The oddsmakers are already dealing lines on next week’s game with the Lions and despite Detroit’s impressive win over New England and Dallas’s disappointing defeat to the Seahawks, we see that the Boys are 3 ½ point home favorites in the early betting.

That’s an odd number considering the Week 3 results but the Dallas passing attack has to get better because it can’t get much worse.

As long as Zeke can move the chains the Cowboys have a chance, but their offense has become too predictable, as has their play calling. Head Coach Jason Garrett has to get more creative and make his players accountable for bone-head penalties of the variety that Defensive End Randy Gregory took when he shoved Seahawks’ Center Joey Hunt’s head directly in front of the referee’s line of vision. It was a 15-yard flag shortly before the first-half and allowed the Seahawks to tack on another three points instead of punting the ball away.

Garrett had this to say after the game regarding Gregory’s penalty:

"You have to keep your poise regardless of what anybody did to you, said to you. You cannot respond like that. Typically what the officials see is the second thing and obviously that drew the flag. That was a poor play for us prior to the half."

Hopefully the line next week at Bovada is a good omen for the Cowboys. Dallas is back at home and the last time they met the Lions, December of 2016, the Cowboys won in a romp by the score of 42-21. In addition, let’s not forget that Detroit may get caught in a letdown situation after a huge win over the Patriots and a game looming with divisional foe Green Bay after their Week 4 showdown in Dallas.

It’s a good spot for the Cowboys in what is shaping up as a trap game for the Lions. Expect a big bounce back performance from Dallas as they roll over their Motown rivals this Sunday afternoon.



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Next Day Rant: NFL is Killing Football to Protect Quarterbacks

Jess Haynie

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Next Day Rant: NFL is Killing Football to Protect Quarterbacks
Shaban Athuman/The Dallas Morning News

Over just three weeks of the 2018 season, the NFL's new rule about hitting quarterbacks has stirred up as much controversy and angst as any amount of anthem kneeling ever did. Tyrone Crawford and the Dallas Cowboys can now add themselves to the list of perplexed victims of the league's misguided legislation.

On the Seattle Seahawks' first offensive series yesterday, Crawford made what in past years would have been a clean, textbook hit on Russell Wilson just as the ball was released. But out came the flag, claiming that Tyrone didn't make enough effort to avoid putting all his weight into the quarterback as he brought him down.

This flag came on a 3rd-down play with Seattle backed up on their own 12. Instead of punting, and likely giving Dallas excellent field position for their next series, the Seahawks got to continue the drive and eventually punt it from midfield.

That consequence may not sound like a big deal, but it robbed the Cowboys of their earned opportunity to get points on the board early. It changed the tone of the game early, and who knows what ripple effect that had the rest of the way.

The real issue here, though, is that that call can even be made. The NFL has finally taken QB protection too far, to the point that defensive players are left with no logical or physically possible way to do their jobs.

Next Day Rant: NFL is Killing Football to Protect Quarterbacks 1

Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews has become the poster boy for the NFL's new hit rule.

Before the Dallas game came on, I watched as the Packers' Clay Matthews got flagged yet again for the same type of call. It was the second time in as many games that Matthews has been given a foul for a clean hit.

Matthews' frustration after he saw that flag was clear. He looked disheartened, and part of me wondered if he might just walk right out of the stadium. In fact, I almost wanted him to pull a Vontae Davis just to help make the point to the league.

The NFL wants the best of both worlds. They want these players to go max effort when the rules allow and then pull it back in very specific, split-second situations. It's more than the human mind and body can do.

You can't ask these defenders to use everything they've got to get through a blocker, and then immediately rein it in once they get their hands on the quarterback.

You can't ask them to avoid going high on the QB, and then always know when the ball has been released. They don't have eyes in the top of their heads.

You can't ask them to come full force on a blitz or rush and then cool their jets within a second or less. Forget mind and body, even the basic laws of inertia don't work that way.

The NFL is asking for the impossible; a safe form of violence. That's like asking for non-toxic poison.

5 NFL Rule Changes That Need to Happen

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

I understand the league's current global dilemma. They are looking down the barrel of rising CTE awareness, lawsuits from former players, and the diminishing participation in youth football. They're trying to save the game from extinction, or at least from falling off the throne as America's modern pastime.

But this rule isn't about that. This is about trying to keep star quarterbacks healthy so that fan engagement and TV ratings don't go down when an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady gets injured.

The NFL is in the entertainment business, so I get their concern. Quarterbacks are the lead actors of the sport. You'd be disappointed if the next Mission Impossible movie was mostly Ving Rhames.

Protecting quarterbacks, given their vulnerability at times on the field, has its place. Some of the rules make sense, even if at times they lead to frustrating penalties.

But now they're messing with the core formula of football. If the Colonel got rid of one of his eleven herbs and spices, KFC chicken might not taste the same anymore. Coca-Cola might suddenly be worse than Pepsi (hard to imagine, I know) if they started changing the syrup.

The NFL isn't tweaking here. They're changing games and putting the burden on defensive players, in the heat of battle, to try to have machine-like precision.

Again, they're asking for the impossible.

Tyrone Crawford

Dallas Cowboys DT Tyrone Crawford

Tyrone Crawford is no Vontaze Burfict. He's not a loose cannon. He's one of the genuine good guys in the NFL, who does everything the right way on and off the field.

You can only imagine his frustration right now, or that of Clay Matthews and anyone else hit with one of these penalties. Imagine what some of these guys, who aren't a Crawford or Matthews, might do if that frustration boils over.

You could hear it even in the commentary yesterday. Troy Aikman and Joe Buck were clearly disgusted by the calls, both in the Cowboys-Seahawks game and what's been happening so far this year. This was FOX's premier broadcast team openly bashing the NFL in a nationally televised game.

And if you think the players and commentators are frustrated, imagine how that translates to fan response.

The league is trying to avoid losing viewers from quarterback injuries. In the process, they may lose a lot more by damaging the game we love.

Playing football is an accepted risk. Players get it. Fans get it.

The NFL has to get it, and soon, before this conversation takes over in a way that past controversies haven't. The anthem kneeling was an overblown, media-driven story that never hit the bottom line they way they wanted you to believe. None of it mattered once the ball was kicked off.

But now the game is being damaged. Football is becoming less fun; a game of rules and penalties rather than action and intensity.

If something doesn't change, the NFL's self-preservation efforts just might lead to its demise.



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Seahawks’ Tight End Will Dissly Flying Under the Radar

John Williams

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Seahawks' Tight End Will Dissly Flying Under the Radar

The Seattle Seahawks are in need of a big win this weekend to stay a game or two back of the NFC West leading Los Angeles Rams. The Dallas Cowboys hope to extend their one game winning streak to two, but to do that, they'll have to win certain matchups on both sides of the football. One player that the Dallas Cowboys will have to be aware of and contain is rookie Tight End Will Dissly.

With Doug Baldwin injured in week one and out week two, other players have had to step up in their lead wide receiver's absence.

Brandon Marshall and Tyler Lockett are the names that most everyone will recognize, but Dissly, is the name that Cowboys Nation should keep an eye on come Sunday.

Dissly, drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Washington, came into the season with a reputation as a blocking back. Dane Brugler, of The Athletic, had Dissly ranked 98th overall and as the ninth ranked tight end in the draft. Just one spot behind Dallas Cowboys rookie Tight End Dalton Schultz.

Here is what Brugler had to say in his 2018 NFL Draft Guide.

"A one-year starter at Washington, Dissly spent his first two years at Washington on defense and his final two years on offense, lining up inline and wing in the Huskies’ offense. He was a blocker-first and receiver-second in college, which was a role he embraced with his hard-nosed toughness and competitive edge. Dissly uses his upper body power and base strength in unison to control the point of attack, displaying the core flexibility and length to keep defenders busy. While he flashed reliable hand/eye coordination and run power after the catch, he lacks the route-running experience or athletic deception to consistently uncover. Overall, Dissly is a project as a pass-catcher, but he will contribute early in his NFL career as an inline blocker and sixth offensive lineman."

Dane Brugler - Dane Brugler's 2018 NFL Draft Guide

To say that it comes as a surprise at Dissly's start to his rookie campaign would be a huge understatement. A Brugler notes, there was a chance he'd contribute early as a blocking specialist, but was thought to be a project in the passing game. He's been a big play threat in the first two games of the season, already taking the lead in Seattle Seahawks TE snap distribution at 65%.

Among tight ends, Dissly's is tied for 12th in the NFL in targets with 10, tied for 17th in receptions with six, fourth in the NFL in receiving yards, tied for first with 2 touchdown receptions, third in yards per reception at 24.5, third in yards after the catch with 90, is tied for fifth with five receptions for first downs, sixth in yards per route run, and hasn't dropped a pass this season. He's averaging five targets, three receptions, 73.5 yards, and a touchdown per game. He's been targeted twice out of the slot and has two receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown while playing 46% of his snaps from the slot.

When Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson has targeted his rookie tight end, he has a passer rating of 143.8.

He's been way more than they could have hoped.

Here's what SB Nation' Seattle Seahawks blog Field Gulls had to say about Will Dissly after the Seattle Seahawks week one loss to the Denver Broncos.

"Hot damn! Who saw that coming? Was that Will Dissly or a prime Jeremy Shockey? 3 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown for someone drafted primarily for his blocking abilities. Seattle has a new weapon on offense, and I doubt anyone saw that coming."

Mookie Alexander - Field Gulls, SB Nation 

It's likely that nobody, including the Denver Broncos or the Chicago Bears, saw Dissly's breakout coming this soon. Now with it on tape, the Dallas Cowboys will have their eye on Will Dissly.

Russell Wilson doesn't have a ton of established -- or still good -- wide receivers at his disposal, but Will Dissly looks like a fourth round steal for the Seahawks.

The Dallas Cowboys' linebackers will be tested on Sunday.

Four of Dissly's six receptions have come against linebackers, including a 34 yard reception (19 yards after the catch) against Chicago Bears' Linebacker Danny Trevathan and a 66 yard reception (52 YAC) against Denver Broncos Outside Linebacker Bradley Chubb.

The Dallas Cowboys seem fully capable of matching up with good receiving tight ends as Jaylon Smith showed on Sunday. Smith showed an ability to run with Odell Beckham Jr. in coverage on Sunday. No small task. We know that Sean Lee is good in coverage. Leighton Vander Esch's best trait coming out of Boise State is his coverage ability. I also wouldn't be surprised to see the Dallas Cowboys matchup Xavier Woods and Anthony Brown with the athletic tight end when he's lined up in the slot.

How the Dallas Cowboys defense does in coverage against the rookie tight end could be a major key to the game. With names like Brandon Marshall, Tyler Lockett, and Rashad Penny to keep an eye on, someone like Will Dissly could be easily forgotten.

You're going to hear his name called on Sunday. Let's just hope it's more for what he did weeks one and two.



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