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What A Possible Tavon Austin Return Means for Cowboys Offense

Sean Martin

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Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Skipping Surgery, May Return in 2018

With four players listed as questionable for week 16 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Dallas Cowboys are getting healthy at the right time. Needing just one more win, or a Philadelphia Eagles loss, to clinch the NFC East, the Cowboys are in position to welcome back a player that hasn't taken the field since week six.

That would be Wide Receiver Tavon Austin, whose inched closer to a return in recent weeks from a groin injury.

In a game of "what have you done for me lately?", the Cowboys offense falls on its face answering this call with a shutout loss squandering last week's chance to win the division at the Colts. For Austin, this answer is also bleak, but the sixth year pro did turn in one of the most electric plays of the season in the Cowboys first win over the Giants.

Still in a pre-Amari Cooper period for the Cowboys receivers, Austin's 64-yard touchdown on the third play from scrimmage was almost unthinkable for any of Quarterback Dak Prescott's other pass catchers at the time.

Cowboys Nation would love nothing more than to bury the nightmarish start to this year on offense, but should welcome Austin back as a dual threat.

Amari Cooper has made touchdowns of 90, 75, 40, and 28 yards look routine since his arrival from Oakland, and could be in line for even more game-breaking plays if lined up with Austin. Cooper and rookie Michael Gallup have formed a successful duo for the present and future in Dallas, with Austin hoping to factor into this rotation with his own speed element.

In Austin's absence, Cornerback Jourdan Lewis has carried the ball twice on jet sweeps that went for gains of seven and five. In a small sample size of six carries, Austin was averaging just over nine yards a carry before his injury.

This disparity in "hidden yards" that the Cowboys are currently desperate for are also evident on special teams, where Dallas is 18th in average punt return yards. Cole Beasley has averaged 4.67 yards, below Austin's previous mark of 5.8 yards.

There's also Austin's 21 career fumbles through 75 games, a warning sign that expecting too much out of the Cowboys gadget under the tree (kettle?) is precisely how the Cowboys ended up with their initial lack of skill at WR.

Those days are gone, and thankfully with it are the expectations for Austin to carry any significant portion of the Cowboys offense or special teams. What Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan has in a healthy Austin is a card up his sleeve for everyone fairly doubting his play calling ability after the Cowboys were blanked by Indy.

Linehan's offense has put out some of their best outputs following lethargic performances, including a 2016 win over this week's opponent on the heels of a loss at the Giants, 10-7. With another win over the Bucs, the Cowboys can make this year's road trip to the Giants meaningless for division implications, a feat that still seems miraculous given this team's 3-5 record through nine weeks.

If the Cowboys do clinch on Sunday, don't rule out Austin being tasked with running back duties in a committee approach that allows the team to rest Ezekiel Elliott in week 17. Practice squad Running Back Darius Jackson was activated this week when Tight End Geoff Swaim was placed on IR.

Tavon Austin or not, the Cowboys were hardly a playoff caliber team with him on the field in the first six games, but are in the mix of NFC contenders with all-important room to further improve this season's biggest weakness on offense.

Along with Austin, Right Guard Zack Martin, Cornerback Anthony Brown, and Linebacker Sean Lee are the other Cowboys listed as questionable for this game. Brown and Lee suited up for the Cowboys defense last week, while Martin missed his first ever start and Austin was out for the eight straight game.

Tell us what you think about "What A Possible Tavon Austin Return Means for Cowboys Offense" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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Where Does Dak Prescott Rank Among NFL Quarterbacks?

John Williams

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Cowboys Wishlist: Wild Card Round Edition

The quarterback position is one of the most difficult positions to evaluate in the NFL. As hard as it can be for a quarterback to understand and execute an offense against a defense that is trying to keep them off balance, it can be equally difficult to try and determine where each quarterback ranks compared to his peers.

Last week, The Sporting News attempted to do just that with their 2019 Quarterback Rankings. It's a pretty good list, and I highly recommend checking it out.

This was the criteria for how Vinnie Iyer,

"These rankings are based on how each QB performed last season and the upside of how each might perform in 2019. No matter how many Super Bowl rings or MVP awards a QB has won, or the number of efficient passing seasons he has posted in the past, history is a small part of the equation. We thought about where each QB ended up last season in terms of effectiveness, production and durability, and then we thought even more about how his talent and offensive support set him up for success (or lack thereof) this season."

Vinnie Iyer - The Sporting News

Dak Prescott came in at number 14 on the list, three spots behind NFC East counterpart Carson Wentz.

Here's what NFL Analyst Vinnie Iyer had to say:

"Prescott dazzled as a rookie in 2016 and slumped as a sophomore in 2017. Last season, he was closer to his rookie form in a year that largely landed between both extremes. Prescott got hot in the second half of the season once he clicked with new No. 1 wideout Amari Cooper, creating a trickle-down effect that should continue with more legitimate overall weapons in 2019."

Vinnie Iyer - The Sporting News

While these lists are rather subjective and it can be a difficult task, I think Vinnie's pretty close on where Dak Prescott sits in the NFL at this point in his career.

It's hard to argue with his top five. Each could have an argument for being the best quarterback in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes just won the NFL MVP, Tom Brady has won all the Super Bowls, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers put up ridiculous numbers year in and year out, and Russell Wilson was just made the highest paid player in NFL history.

While I think Dak probably sits in the 9-15 range, here are the five quarterbacks ranked ahead or Prescott.

9. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
10. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
11. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
12. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
13. DeShaun Watson, Houston Texans

I feel there's an argument to be made that Prescott is a few spots to low.

As an avid Oklahoma Sooners homer, I find it a bit presumptuous to have Baker Mayfield as one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the NFL. Mostly because he's only played 14 games at this point in his NFL career. Mayfield had a tremendous rookie season and has given Cleveland Browns fans hope that the franchise is finally headed in the right direction. As much as I love Baker Mayfield and think he's going to be a great NFL quarterback, it's hard for me to put him in the top 10 at this point in his career.

Ben Roethlisberger is easily a top 10 quarterback. He has skins on the wall and over the last several seasons has been a prolific passer in the NFL. Some of the games he plays in the offseason talking about retirement aren't great, but it's hard to argue he hasn't had a borderline Hall of Fame career.

The most difficult argument I think comes when you compare Dak Prescott and DeShaun Watson. The two seem to be on similar career trajectories at this point.

Totals Table
Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Rush Rush
Player From To G QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Rate Int Sk Y/A Yds TD
Dak Prescott 2016 2018 48 32-16-0 975 1475 66.1 10876 67 96.0 25 113 7.4 944 18
Deshaun Watson 2017 2018 23 14-8-0 471 709 66.4 5864 45 103.1 17 81 8.3 820 7
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2019.

Watson has a better passer rating, a slightly better completion percentage and has more total touchdowns per game than Dak Prescott for his career. If Watson had played as many games as Dak Prescott to this point, at his current touchdown rate, he'd have 108 total touchdowns. 23 more than Dak Prescott.

The two that I have the biggest issue with on this list are the two he gets compared to the most because they were taken first and second overall in the same draft that Dak Prescott was taken in the fourth round; Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.

Dak Prescott's thrown for near as many touchdowns as Carson Wentz, who leads the three, but if you consider how many touchdowns Prescott's rushed for in his career, he sits 13 total touchdowns ahead of Wentz and 16 total touchdowns more than Jared Goff. Dak Prescott has a better career passer rating than both of those quarterbacks and is right there in yards per attempt with both guys.

Totals Table
Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Rush Rush
Player G QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Rate Int Sk Y/A Yds TD
Jared Goff 38 24-14-0 772 1243 62.1 9581 65 94.7 26 84 7.7 175 4
Dak Prescott 48 32-16-0 975 1475 66.1 10876 67 96.0 25 113 7.4 944 18
Carson Wentz 40 23-17-0 923 1448 63.7 10152 70 92.5 28 92 7.0 542 2
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/17/2019.

Dak Prescott can claim more team success than Carson Wentz. One could argue that Jared Goff didn't play his best on the way to representing the NFC in the most recent Super Bowl. Dak Prescott has started every game of his NFL career while Carson Wentz has missed eight games due to season-ending injuries each of the last two seasons. Durability is a huge issue for Wentz at this point. I'd rather have the guy who you know will be on the field.

If I were going to rerank Dak Prescott with the five quarterbacks ranked directly ahead of him, I'd go:

9. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
10. DeShaun Watson, Houston Texans
11. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
12. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
13. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
14. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Of course, this is my attempt to be as unbiased as possible and would completely understand if you wanted to rank them differently. There's no perfect way to rank players in the NFL and I applaud the Sporting News guys for giving it this effort. I can see arguments for Ben Roethlisberger, Baker Mayfield, and DeShaun Watson ahead of Dak Prescott, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.

Dak Prescott is a top 12 quarterback in the NFL and an ascending player in this league.

If you were going to rank the six quarterbacks listed above, how would you rank them? Let us know in the comment section. 



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Dallas Cowboys Should Pursue Recently Released DT Gerald McCoy

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys Should Pursue Recently Released Gerald McCoy

The Dallas Cowboys have been reinforcing their defensive interior all offseason and look to be in a good position as they get ready to begin offseason training activities and minicamp. Yesterday, I wrote about the possibility of trading for New York Jets Defensive Tackle Leonard Williams. Another defensive tackle has now become available, long-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy.

Per a report from Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs are going to release McCoy after nine seasons with the club.

Rick Stroud on Twitter

BREAKING: DT Gerald McCoy has been informed by the Bucs of their plans to release him after nine seasons. The team decided not to pay him the $13-million salary he was owed for 2019.

McCoy is the definition of a cap casualty as he was set to make $13 million on the cap this year. At age 30 in 2018, McCoy still had six sacks as the Buccaneers 3-technique defensive tackle.

Defense & Fumbles Table
Game Def Def Fumb Fumb Fumb Tack Tack Tack Tack Tack
Year Age Tm GS Int PD FF Fmb FR Sk Comb Solo Ast TFL QBHits
2010 22 TAM 13 0 5 2 0 0 3.0 27 21 6 7 12
2011 23 TAM 6 1.0 11 10 1 3 3
2012* 24 TAM 16 0 2 1 0 1 5.0 30 23 7 9 15
2013*+ 25 TAM 16 0 4 0 0 1 9.5 50 35 15 15 21
2014* 26 TAM 13 0 3 1 0 0 8.5 35 28 7 13 13
2015* 27 TAM 15 0 1 8.5 34 26 8 8 17
2016* 28 TAM 15 0 5 2 0 2 7.0 34 25 9 5 14
2017* 29 TAM 15 0 1 6.0 47 33 14 13 24
2018 30 TAM 14 0 1 6.0 28 17 11 6 21
Care Care 123 0 22 6 0 4 54.5 296 218 78 79 140
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/20/2019.

Throughout his career, he's been one of the more productive defensive tackles in the league. From 2012 to 2017 he was selected to the Pro Bowl six times and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2013.

Since 2012, McCoy's averaged 7.2 sacks, 36.8 total tackles, 9.85 tackles for loss, and 17.85 quarterback hits a season. Over the last three seasons, McCoy's averaged just under seven sacks a season. In 2018, he finished with 38 total pressures, which was 19th among all interior defensive linemen. Only Tyrone Crawford from the Cowboys had nearly as many total pressures on the interior with 37.

Though the Cowboys have brought in Christian Covington, Kerry Hyder, and Trysten Hill to fortify a defensive interior with Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, and Tyrone Crawford, Gerald McCoy would make an excellent addition to their rotation. Mike Fisher of 247 Sports is reporting that the Cowboys currently have "very little interest" in the defensive tackle.

That's plausible. The Dallas Cowboys have a ton of depth on the defensive line at the moment, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't pursue a talented player such as Gerald McCoy. McCoy has been an excellent 3-tech but also has the size to contribute at 1-tech on passing downs if you need him to.

The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has a ton of depth and it may not make sense to bring in a guy like McCoy, but they should. Much like the trade for Robert Quinn, you're putting your eggs in the 2019 Super Bowl basket and trying to maximize the talent that you have on the roster this year. They're a team primed to make a deep run in January and McCoy can help them do that.

As in everything, it will come down to the price tag. However, given that the Dallas Cowboys currently have just under $20 million available on the 2019 salary cap, they can get a deal done with McCoy and continue working on the long-term contracts for their star core of players.

Gerald McCoy makes the defense better. He's another guy along the defensive line, in addition to DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn, that the offensive line has to think about. He makes things easier for everyone at every level of the defense and shouldn't cost a ton to sign on a one-year deal.



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BREAKING: Ezekiel Elliott Handcuffed After Incident with Security Guard

Jess Haynie

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No Preseason Work Hurt Ezekiel Elliott's Early Season Production?

TMZ has released footage of Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott being handcuffed and escorted by police after an altercation with security at a Las Vegas music festival over the weekend.

Elliott was not arrested and no charges have been filed.

ProFootballTalk on Twitter

Ezekiel Elliott handcuffed but not charged after incident at Las Vegas music festival https://t.co/NJQ6csGgnv

The video shows Zeke engaged in what appears to be an argument with a female companion. Elliott is seen following her through the crowd, and then security starts to get involved after Zeke moves his body to block her from walking away.

One of the security guards says something that attracts Elliott's attention, causing him to move in closer. The guard falls backward from minimal contact. It as soon after that police get involved.

There isn't much here that would cause trouble for the average player, but that's hardly Elliott's situation. He's one of the most prolific stars in the NFL and already has history with the league for domestic violence and personal conduct issues.

Remember, no charges were filed when the NFL gave Elliott a six-game suspension in 2017 after accusations from an ex-girlfriend of domestic violence.

We will have to wait and see how Roger Goodell chooses to treat this latest issue.



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