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Should Cowboys Reunite Coach Fassel and WR Tavon Austin on Special Teams?

Special teams has been an eyesore for the Dallas Cowboys the last few years. They took a big step to fixing that by hiring John Fassel this offseason, one of the most respect special teams coaches in football. Given their past work together with the Rams, would it also make sense for Dallas to re-sign Tavon Austin for Fassel’s crew?

Fassel was the Special Teams Coordinator for Los Angeles for 2012-2019. He helped draft Tavon in 2013 and coached him for five seasons.

While Austin never lived up to being an 8th-overall pick in his draft he was still a versatile offensive weapon and standout return man. He returned a punt for a touchdown in each of his first three seasons.

Austin was traded to Dallas in 2018, the same year that the Cowboys lost Rich Bisaccia as their special teams coach. Bisaccia jumped ship to join Jon Gruden’s staff in Oakland, and then Dallas promoted Keith O’Quinn to fill the vacant job.

While it’s not clear how much was the coach’s doing or just bad breaks, the Cowboys’ special teams fell apart over the last two years under O’Quinn. Dallas got little out of the return game on either kickoffs or punts.

Tavon hasn’t returned kickoffs much since his rookie year, but the Cowboys have Tony Pollard for that job. The key concern here is on punts and, as of now, nobody on the current roster has a proven record in that area.

I say “on the current roster” because Tavon Austin remains an unsigned free agent following the expiration of his last contract.

Tavon Austin, Jets
Dallas Cowboys WR Tavon Austin

Bringing Austin back in 2020 would not only provide a reliable punt returner but also some much-needed experience on the WR depth chart. While he’s been inconsistent, Tavon has been able to step up and make plays on offense when given opportunities.

This was especially seen in Dallas’ Week 6 loss to the Jets last year.  Randall Cobb was out with injury and Amari Cooper left the game on the first series. That led to six rare targets to Austin in the passing game, which he turned into five catches for 64 yards.

No, I don’t think Tavon should be given Randall Cobb’s vacant job as the #3 receiver. But if he’s on the 53 as WR depth while also serving as your punt returner, that’s solid roster value.

With Austin having just turned 30 in March there’s an argument to be made for finding a younger option. But returning punts is about much than speed and agility. Vision and reaction ability are critical and Tavon has proven those skills during his NFL career.

Even if the Cowboys spend a high pick at WR in the upcoming 2020 Draft that rookie may not have return value.

The key man in this discussion is John Fassel. Does he still have interest in working with Tavon Austin after their previous time together?  Does Fassel think he could work with someone else already on the team, such as Pollard, to handle the job?

I know many Cowboys fans will groan if Austin is re-signed after two years of low production, including on special teams. But given how bad the ST units were as a whole under the previous coach, was Tavon’s performance more a symptom than a cause?

Depending on what happens in the upcoming draft, and especially how John Fassel feels about him, Tavon Austin just might be more valuable to the Cowboys in 2020 than you think.

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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  1. waste of an article, please let this little china doll (austin) move on, he CANT stay on the field ever in his career, get a new guy in the draft and sprinkle in a little of pollard if we have to, plus this china doll is way overpaid!!!!!!

  2. If he accepts vet minimum and no guaranteed $ then what is the harm putting him on the 90 man roster? He has skills. Better that than some “camp arm” when Rush needs every throw he can get.

  3. I’d rather have Dez Bryant at WR4 and then draft WR3.

    The trick to maximizing Dez Bryant is: DO NOT audible out of plays.
    (I recall Tony Romo struggling to get him lined up).
    Despite that, Dez would be the league’s best WR4.

    How about this WR group?

    Amari Cooper (1000+ yards)
    Michael Gallup (1000+ yards)
    Devin Duvernay (600+ yards)
    Dez Bryant (300+ yards)
    Devin Smith (150+ yards)
    Cedric Wilson (100+ yards)

    Blake Jarwin (700+ yards)
    Blake Bell (100+ yards)
    Dalton Schultz (50+ yards)

    Zeke Elliott (400+ receiving yards)
    Tony Pollard (200+ receiving yards)
    Jamize Olawale (50+ receiving yards)

    4650 receiving yards. (With Dez and Blake Jarwin as RedZone weapons)

  4. Tavon Austin is the fastest player on the team. He runs a 4.3 40 yd dash. Every time that Austin was given a chance and when Dak Prescott put the ball where he could catch he did. They weren’t calling enough plays to him, because when they did, he was open. Also, in the return game, kept switching him off with Pollard on kick offs, and Pollard wasn’t doing squat. Keep Tavon Austin, use him properly, because he’s one of the fastest players in the league.

  5. You don’t need anyone to take a knee for kick offs!!
    You need a running back for punts, some who can run in TRAFFIC!! Coverage is much tighter. Pollard is perfect for the job.

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