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Thread: Sturm: What adding Tavon Austin tells us about Scott Linehanís redesign plans

  1. #41
    Senior Member deadrise's Avatar
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    Okay, so here's another theory. Suppose they go to Noah Brown and say, "Noah, we need you to pack on another 10 pounds, cause we're gonna make you a tight end."

    So then the formation on a 3rd and three is Zeke in the backfield, Austin in the slot, two TEs named Rico Gathers and Noah Brown, and a WR. The TEs aren't great blockers, but they're okay blockers.

    Is that a running formation or a passing formation? Who does the defensive coordinator defend?

    I realize it's just a theory. I may be full of shit and bad manners. Feel free to say so.

  2. #42
    Senior Member NoDak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iamtdg View Post


    yep.

  3. #43
    Senior Member Rev's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCUDoomsday View Post
    That wasn't the claim. The claim was (accurately) that you could win the division with only 4 wins.He was talking no sense because obviously he either didn't read what I posted or didn't understand it.
    Write it out...
    #Fire Garrett

  4. #44
    Senior Member p1_'s Avatar
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    Determining What Tavon Austinís Role With The Cowboys Might Look Like
    Wednesday, May 16, 2018 2:37 PM CDT
    By David Helman


    FRISCO, Texas Ė Itís amazing that, in this age of information, things can still get twisted so easily.

    That applies to a million different facets of life Ė many of them being far more important than NFL football. But my job is to write stuff about the Dallas Cowboys, and sometimes Iím at a loss for how simple facts can become so confused.

    For a latest example, Iím looking squarely at the acquisition of Tavon Austin back during the 2018 NFL Draft. The Cowboys sent a sixth-round pick to the Rams, and in exchange they received Austin Ė a diminutive, lightning fast skill player, originally drafted in the first round back in 2013.

    I chose the phrase ďskill playerĒ deliberately, because at this point thereís 18 different talking points about what heís going to do here. Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett confused the entire football world on draft weekend, when they continually referred to Austin as a ďweb back.Ē Jones didnít make things any easier in the same press conference, when he suggested Austin might get the ball ďa dozen to 20 times, two dozen times a gameĒ in the Cowboysí offense.

    Austin chose No. 10 Ė a number reserved for wide receivers Ė but heís listed on the Cowboysí roster as a running back. He caught the ball just 13 times during his last season with the Rams, but he took 59 carries.

    On top of that, he has at times been one of the NFLís most electrifying return men, with 158 career punt returns and 25 career kick returns in six seasons.

    So, to get back to the central point of the article, what exactly is this guy going to do for the Cowboys?

    The answer seems obvious, provided you donít insist on lumping him into one category.

    To prove that point, I actually went back and looked at the offensive involvement of the two guys Austin is most often compared to Ė Lance Dunbar and Lucky Whitehead.

    The comparisons are obvious. Dunbar was a small, speedy running back who filled a role as both a runner and receiver for several years in Dallas. Whitehead was a small, speedy receiver who had a niche as both a ball carrier and a return man.

    For one month in 2015, before suffering a massive knee injury, Dunbar played 34 percent of the Cowboysí offensive snaps, tallying five carries and 21 receptions for 282 total yards. He also returned six kicks for an average of 24 yards per attempt.

    The Cowboys had a very clear role in mind for Dunbar that year, before injuries derailed everything. After all, when the Cowboys trailed the Giants, 26-20, with 1:29 to play in Week 1, it was Dunbar on the field Ė not Joseph Randle or Darren McFadden. He was instrumental in getting that game-winning drive going, too, as he caught two passes from Tony Romo for 40 yards, moving the ball into scoring range.

    Things obviously changed drastically in 2016, when the Cowboys spent the No. 4 overall pick on Ezekiel Elliott. Rather than choosing from four less prominent running backs, the Cowboys had another true bell cow in the mold of DeMarco Murray.

    And still, even in 2016, there was room for this ďweb backĒ type of role. Believe it or not, in the 15 regular season games Zeke started as a rookie, he only accounted for 70 percent of the Cowboysí offensive snaps. Running backs not named Elliott Ė whether it was Dunbar, Alfred Morris or McFadden Ė accounted for 30 percent of the offenseís snaps.

    Whitehead played a role in that, too. As the Cowboysí fifth receiver, he played 143 of 1,060 total snaps in 2016 Ė roughly 13 percent. In that stretch, he took 10 carries in addition to three receptions. And, as predictable as his contributions were Ė jokes about the jet sweep abound Ė it worked way more often than it didnít. In two years with the Cowboys, Whitehead took 20 carries and averaged a whopping nine yards per attempt.

    It obviously wasnít just his ability as a runner, either. Whitehead was a constant presence moving across the formation. Even when he didnít touch the ball, his speed was scary enough to give defenses just a momentís pause.

    This is an element that was missing from the Cowboysí offense in 2017, and itís not just because Elliott was suspended for six games. In the 10 games that Elliott was available to play, other ball carriers accounted for just 78 snaps Ė or roughly 11 percent.

    There were some half-hearted attempts at diversification. Ryan Switzer took four carries on the year, for a grand total of five yards. Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant both got a couple of cracks at it, but nothing substantial.

    My argument here would be that perhaps the Cowboys, suspecting that Elliott might be due for NFL discipline, opted to stock themselves with substitutes for Zeke, rather than complements. Rod Smith and Alfred Morris are both perfectly capable running backs, and they played well during Zekeís six-game absence Ė but theyíre both similar players to Elliott, and they donít possess the lateral speed or agility mentioned above.

    Now, take a look at what the Rams have asked of Austin in recent years. Itís precisely the element the Cowboys have missed.

    Of course, Iím not trying to convince you that Austin is some All-Pro the Rams dealt away for just a sixth-round pick. A variety of factors pushed the former first-round pick down the depth chart until he was expendable. Austin hurt his wrist last offseason, and he said that Ė combined with a hamstring problem Ė limited his effectiveness in 2017.

    The Rams also saw Todd Gurley emerge as an NFL MVP caliber running back. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp broke out as reliable options for Jared Goff. And then there was the offseason addition of Brandin Cooks, which may have spelled the end for Austin more than anything else.

    Still, thereís an intriguing amount of versatility that goes with Austinís natural athleticism.

    Watching games from the last two years, the Rams werenít afraid to use him in a variety of different ways.

    He lined up out wide in three-receiver sets, catching bubble screens and running traditional downfield routes.

    He motioned across the formation, running jet sweeps and play actions from the slot and from out wide.

    He lined up as a single back, taking handoffs and toss sweeps Ė from both traditional and shotgun formations.

    He also caught his fair share of swing passes and flare outs from the backfield, as well.

    He motioned out of the backfield, forcing defenses to account for a last-second switch from running back to receiver.

    Perhaps my favorite wrinkle, he occasionally lined up in the backfield alongside Gurley Ė which is an intriguing thought, potentially forcing defenses to account for both Austin and Zeke, in the same place at the same time.


    It all stacks up to look like this: in the last two years, the Rams targeted Austin 128 times, resulting in 71 receptions Ė thatís an average of four targets and two catches per game. Throw in 87 total carries, an average of three per game, and 58 total returns, which is roughly two per game.

    All told, thatís roughly 10 opportunities per game Ė and Austin did a decent job with them. During his two seasons in Los Angeles, he amassed 1,392 all-purpose yards. He averaged 7.8 yards per reception and 4.9 yards per carry.

    Thereís cause for optimism those numbers could be better in Dallas.

    For starters, the offense is bound to look different. The Cowboys are losing 1,944 snaps from 2017 in the form of Jason Witten and Dez Bryant Ė not to mention two of the focal points of their offense for the past decade.

    Weíve already established that Austin can get onto the field in a number of different ways Ė whether itís as a receiver, a second running back or even the primary ball carrier. There arenít many personnel groupings that necessitate he leave the field.

    The Cowboys have shown a willingness to diversify away from Zeke. Remember, in 2016, running backs other than Elliott played 321 total snaps. Keep in mind that Austin can participate at the same time as Elliott, and the skyís the limit on how much action he could see.

    Not to mention, for all the flak heís taken these last few months, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has a history of utilizing exactly these types of players.

    When he was with Detroit, Linehan added Reggie Bush to his offense in 2013 -- his final year before leaving for Dallas. The result was one of the best years of Bushís lengthy career, as he took 223 carries for 1,006 yards while adding 54 receptions for 506 yards.

    The Lions gave Bush roughly 22 opportunities per game that year Ė and that was in an offense that still found a way to target Calvin Johnson 156 times for 1,492 yards.

    Now, is Austin capable of maximizing a role like that? Itís hard to say. He hasnít done it to this point in his career Ė and it remains to be seen just how heavily the Cowboys want to feature him.

    Thatís part of the beauty of this experiment, though. For starters, nobodyís leaning on him. Not only will he not be the focal point of a run-first, powerful offense, he also wonít be carrying the label of a disappointing top 10 pick.

    On top of that, there are tools around him. This coaching staff has experience using his skillset. His quarterback and running back play to his strengths, as well. Factor in the talent on the offensive line in front of him, and thereís a lot to like about Austinís present circumstance.

    Itís too soon to say how well itís going to work. But some quick research can give you an idea of what Tavon Austin is capable of. To be frank, it could be an awfully good idea.
    Did you lack those 3 Super Bowls?

  5. #45
    One-armed Knife Sharpener Iamtdg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by p1_
    Perhaps my favorite wrinkle, he occasionally lined up in the backfield alongside Gurley – which is an intriguing thought, potentially forcing defenses to account for both Austin and Zeke, in the same place at the same time.
    Exactly my point with Bo. Same point extends to Austin.
    2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

  6. #46
    Senior Member deadrise's Avatar
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    With Garrett's creative, outside-the-box thinking there's no telling what magic he'll unveil as each game unfolds.

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  8. #47
    Senior Member Cowboysrock55's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iamtdg View Post
    Exactly my point with Bo. Same point extends to Austin.
    Yep, I think Bo bring certain elite skills that could be utilized. He is an elite athlete with his size and speed and the power that he runs with. I think if you can limit his hits as a part time player he could be very productive in the NFL.

  9. #48
    Senior Member Genghis Khan's Avatar
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    Scarbrough is an elite athlete?

  10. #49
    Senior Member Cowboysrock55's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Genghis Khan View Post
    Scarbrough is an elite athlete?
    6'1" 230 pounds with a 4.5 forty and a 40 inch verticle? I'd say most would call that an elite athlete.

    He had the 5th highest SPARQ score of all RBs in this draft class.

  11. #50
    Senior Member Genghis Khan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cowboysrock55 View Post
    6'1" 230 pounds with a 4.5 forty and a 40 inch verticle? I'd say most would call that an elite athlete.

    He had the 5th highest SPARQ score of all RBs in this draft class.
    I'm surprised by those numbers.

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