There’s no question what the turnaround point of the 2018 season was for the Dallas Cowboys; it was trading for wide receiver Amari Cooper. The trade bolstered their receiving corps and slotted the rest of the targets into more comfortable and rightful roles.
Cooper was not the first wide out Dallas traded for, however, as they dealt for Tavon Austin during the 2018 NFL Draft. The hope was for Austin to take over the Lucky Whitehead role, but to do it in a much more functional way.
To be honest, when healthy, I’d say Tavon Austin did a good job of this. Austin numbers weren’t gaudy, catching 7 balls for 2 touchdowns and 130 yards in 6 games, but he was effective in the jet sweep package. Austin clearly had an element of speed which no one else on the Cowboys’ offense had. And, when he was out (and before Cooper got here), he was missed by the offense.
Bleacher Report disagrees. This week, Kristopher Knox of BR released an article naming the worst player on each team for the 2018 regular season. The list was more about most disappointing, however, especially if they were acquired during the offseason.
Knox named Tavon Austin the Cowboys worst player, citing his inconsistencies as the main reason why.
“Austin has game-breaking speed that can add an explosive element to any offense. What he doesn’t have is reliability, consistency or, well, natural receiver ability.”
There is no question that inconsistencies have plagued Tavon Austin throughout his career thus far, but he actually fits what the Cowboys want from him very well. Whether or not he has a future with the Cowboys and their current roster construction is up for debate, but naming him their worst player is a pretty harsh statement.
The article states that all context is factored in, including salary, preseason expectations, and player roles. While Austin is clearly not underpaid, to say he underperformed in his role when healthy is inaccurate. Plus, to discredit Austin because of his lack of natural receiver ability when the Cowboys now have no expectation of him to thrive in a “natural” receiver role, is an interesting move.
I’m certainly not here to tell you that Tavon Austin is a great receiver, or that he has lived up to all fans may have hoped for, but naming him their “worst” performer of 2018 is a lot.
To be honest, if factoring in preseason expectations and importance to the success of the team as a whole, someone like La’el Collins would be a better choice.
Not that Collins is awful, but he hasn’t played up to the level we had hoped he’d progress to at right tackle. And when you consider how important the offensive line is to a team built like the Cowboys are, Collins or Connor Williams makes sense here.