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.
Report: Amari Cooper Likely out for the Rest of the Preseason
Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Amari Cooper is likely out for the remainder of the preseason according to ESPN's Todd Archer. He is currently dealing with a form of plantar fasciitis that has kept him out of practice since August 6th.
The three-time pro bowler changed life in Dallas last season as the team went 7-2 in it's final nine games after he was acquired to win the NFC East. Cooper isn't worried about any long term effects, though, as this is something he's familiar with.
"I'm not worried about it at all, because I know if it does linger, it doesn't matter," Cooper said. "I had 1,000 yards when I played on plantar fasciitis before."
The Cowboys host the Houston Texans this Saturday in what is known as the "dress rehearsal" game before the regular season. Starters normally play about a half of football to get the juices flowing for when games really count in September. Ideally, the plan would be for Cooper and Dak Prescott to get a rhythm of sorts before the season starts but that will have to wait until the team prepares to take on the New York Giants on September 8th.
However, the good thing here is this issue doesn't seem to be serious and Cooper will be ready for the start of the 2019 season.
Report: Cowboys Agree To Contract Extension With LB Jaylon Smith
The Cowboys are neck-deep in contract negotiations with some of their team's most important players, but it appears they have gotten one key guy signed this afternoon.
ESPN's Todd Archer is reporting that the Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with middle linebacker Jaylon Smith, though the exact terms of the contract have yet to be announced.
The Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with linebacker Jaylon Smith, according to sources. Smith was set to be a restricted free agent after this season but the Cowboys and his representatives started talks in the spring and they ramped up once camp began. Smith, a...
Of course, the Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith early in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft despite the horrific leg injury he suffered in Notre Dame's college bowl game. Some didn't think Smith would ever recover to be the same player he once was, but in 2018 Smith emerged as an excellent middle linebacker once again. Smith finished the 2018 season with 121 combined tackles and 4 sacks, and has looked just as imposing thus far in the preseason.
Smith regained his athleticism and sideline to sideline speed, while retaining his impressive hit power and sound tackling to become one of the league's best. Combining Smith with Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys have put together arguably the best linebacker group in the NFL.
And now, there's no end in sight for the dynamic duo.
Report: 2 Dallas Cowboys to be Activated off of P.U.P. List
Per a report from ESPN's Todd Archer, the Dallas Cowboys will soon activate Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence off of the Physically Unable to Perform (P.U.P.) List.
"The Cowboys are planning to activate defensive linemen DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford from the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday, according to a source. They will work through individual drills in their first steps on the field before going through full practices. Lawrence had shoulder surgery not long after signing a five-year, $101 million contract in April. Crawford has been working his way through a hip issue that kept him out of the offseason program. Safety Byron Jones (hip) and receiver Noah Brown (knee) remain on PUP."
Todd Archer - ESPN.com
This report comes after DeMarcus Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery in April and signed his five-year deal making him the highest-paid player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, at least for now. It looks as if Lawrence will be ready for a week one return.
It's long been believed that Lawrence would be available for week one of the regular season and hasn't suffered any setbacks to this point that should lead you to believe otherwise. With Robert Quinn suspended for the first two games of the regular season and Randy Gregory's status still up in the air (he still hasn't applied for reinstatement), getting Lawrence and Crawford back for the first two weeks of the season becomes instrumental.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has looked really good through the first two games of the preseason, but as good as they've been, they'll need Lawrence and Crawford once the regular season starts. Lawrence will slot back in as the left defensive end and Tyrone Crawford will split snaps at right defensive end with Dorance Armstrong and 3-technique defensive tackle with Maliek Collins, Trysten Hill, and Kerry Hyder.
While the additions of DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford will help the defense tremendously, there still isn't a timeline on the return of Pro Bowl Cornerback Byron Jones. Jones has been out since having hip surgery this offseason.
With as good as the Dallas Cowboys defense has looked this offseason, there's reason to believe that they can be even better once each of these guys are back in the lineup full-time. For a defense that was one of the 10 best defenses in the NFL in 2019, they'll need Lawrence, Crawford, and Jones to make the jump into the elite stratosphere of NFL defenses.
With the Dallas Cowboys' eyes set on capturing that sixth Lombardi Trophy, getting Lawrence and Crawford back in time to be ready for the regular season is vital to starting the 2019 season off right.
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