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.
BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb
According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.
Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T
The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.
During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.
After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.
This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.
Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!
REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur
L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.
Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.
The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e
Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.
Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.
Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.
REPORT: Police Detain Cowboys DL Tyrone Crawford After Bar Fight
According to TMZ, Tyrone Crawford was involved in a brawl at a bar in Panama City, FL last Friday night. The Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman and team captain was detained by police but apparently was not arrested.
The level of Crawford's involvement has not been substantiated, but TMZ's report does have him shoving police officers at some point in the action. The incident was reportedly captured by surveillance equipment at the bar.
Given that he was not arrested, one could assume that Tyrone was not one of the primary players in the melee. But that doesn't mean the NFL won't still review this matter as it relates to the personal conduct policy, and Cowboys fans know too well how "fair" that process can be.
This is certainly not a story you'd expect to see attached to Tyrone Crawford, who has been a model citizen and leader since entering the league in 2012.
Dallas elected to keep Crawford this season despite solid potential savings. He will count $10.1 million against their 2019 salary cap, which is high for his average production. However, he can play multiple positions and is one of their most experienced players.
Even if Tyrone were to get suspended by the league, it likely wouldn't be more than a one or two-game ban given his record and reputation. It shouldn't change anything about his status with the team.
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