Tavon Austin, No. 1 receiver.
In no way does that have a nice ring to it.
The Dallas Cowboys are getting desperate. They don’t have anyone of significance to catch balls from Dak Prescott. So in these early days of training camp, they’re turning to Austin, a multidimensional non-threat.
Amid stockpiled mediocrity at receiver, Austin generated buzz in Dallas.
“The sight of Austin lining up outside often with Dallas’ first-team offense was an early surprise in camp. So was the word from teammate Cole Beasley that Austin is already stepping into a vocal leadership role among the Cowboys’ wideouts. The talk in OTAs of transitioning Austin to more of a running back role sounds like smoke in retrospect. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is testing a lot of formations, with Austin and Beasley as tag-team partners in many of them.”
A tag-team of Austin and Beasley? I can hear the laughter in Philadelphia, Washington and New York.
Beasley is nothing special, and probably shouldn’t be considered one of the top 10 slot receivers in the NFL. (Meanwhile, a Cowboys fan blog is wondering whether he’s the next deep threat in Dallas. I kid you not.)
Rookie third-round pick Michael Gallup is getting hype, just like Austin. Gallup was prolific at Colorado State (but, of course, CSU isn’t exactly a powerhouse program). Offseason acquisition Allen Hurns, another slot receiver, seems like a reasonable option. Hurns managed a 1,000-yard season in 2015, though he hasn’t exceeded 500 yards in a season since. Hopes for those two players are based in a more firm version of reality. Maybe.
With Austin, there isn’t.
His athleticism and versatility have never translated. The proof is in his lack of production. He has never exceeded 1,000 yards from scrimmage. His career high in receiving yards after five seasons is 509 yards in 2016. He may average 6.7 yards per rush, but he also averages a paltry 8.7 yards per reception. Not even Sean McVay could figure out what to do with Austin, who had a career-low in the Los Angeles Rams’ high-octane offense in 2017.
The Cowboys other options at receiver include Terrance Williams, a perennial disappointment, and Deonte Thompson, a track star who is still figuring out how to play receiver.
And let’s not get started at tight end. Well actually, let’s, because there’s nothing to talk about. What is there to say about Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers, Dalton Schultz and David Wells?
If Austin is turning heads in Dallas, it’s a sign that Prescott and Cowboys have a talent deficiency at pass-catcher — not that Austin is primed to turn into a game-changing threat.
In other words, Ezekiel Elliot will be the Cowboys all-everything.