Receiver and return specialist Tavon Austin has missed the last two games with a concussion, but returned to practice yesterday. One of the more underrated players now on the 2019 Cowboys roster, Austin brings some valuable assets to Dallas’ Week 4 challenge in New Orleans.
Every now and then, an interaction on social media sparks a reactionary article form me. Yesterday I shared the news that Austin was returning to practice, and one fellow tweeter bemused that Tavon was a waste of a roster spot and a progress stopper for Cedrick Wilson.
It’s not the first I’ve seen that opinion. Some were surprised that Austin made it past final cuts this year, or that Dallas even felt inclined to re-sign him during free agency.
There’s no denying that Tavon never lived up to being the 8th-overall pick in the 2013 Draft. That ship has sailed, but that was also Rams’ ship to worry about. The only thing matters now is if he’s worth roster spot and the measly $1.75 million that the Cowboys are paying him in 2019.
Consider for a moment the different ways Tavon Austin can help you on offense. He has the speed to go vertical and stretch a defense from the outside, or the shiftiness to make plays out of the slot. He also has the capacity to play out of the backfield as a runner if needed.
That’s three different positions he can cover; insurance against injuries to Randall Cobb, Devin Smith, or even Tony Pollard this Sunday. We may even see Austin get some extra looks in New Orleans thanks to Michael Gallup’s absence, though Smith should still be the primary beneficiary.
But what’s most important here, and the real reason that Tavon Austin remains on the Cowboys roster in 2019, is what he’s capable of on special teams.
Take your brain back to the Cowboys’ 2018 postseason victory over the Seattle Seahawks. You’ve probably long forgotten Austin’s 80-yard punt return touchdown that got called back for a questionable holding penalty.
You may have also forgotten his 51-yard return in the 3rd Quarter that set Dallas up to potentially put the game away, only to see the drive end on an interception.
We didn’t miss these things against the Giants, Redskins, Dolphins; the games were never close enough that a big special teams play would’ve made the difference. But when the competition gets tougher in 2019, as it will this Sunday in New Orleans, a big return play from Tavon Austin could be a game changer.
The Cowboys clearly believe in Austin’s value. Again, they re-signed him last March and then kept him at final cuts, sending Cedrick Wilson and other prospects to either practice squad or the streets.
The biggest problem that Tavon’s had so far in Dallas is staying healthy, missing eight of the 19 regular season games he’s been here for so far. It’s been an issue for him going back to his Rams days, too.
But as we saw last January against Seattle, Austin can be a difference-maker when he’s on the field. The Cowboys are willing to assume the injury risk and hope that the stars will align for Tavon to help them win a game when it matters most.
Depending on how things go in the Superdome this week, Tavon Austin may validate his presence sooner than later.