When they Cowboys first acquired Tavon Austin, they planned to deploy him in multiple positions. Evidently, Jason Garrett has changed his mind.
The Cowboys are clearly short on talent at wide receiver. They’re hoping Tavon Austin can claim the starting slot position as his own. That means Dallas fans won’t be seeing Austin in the backfield at all this season.
When Austin was first acquired in a trade with the Rams, Cowboys’ officials claimed they’d use Austin at both running back and receiver. Somewhere along the lines their plans for the former West Virginia receiver changed. Austin recently told reportwes he ‘ain’t touched the backfield yet.” He did say he is willing to play running back if needed, but it’s obvious the coaching staff wants him to focus on becoming a productive wide receiver.
It’s fair to wonder whether or not that’s a reasonable expectation. Austin had the worst receiving season of his career last year with just 13 catches for 47 yards. There was clearly a reason the Rams were willing to let him go for a sixth-round pick. Curiously, he did run the ball 59 times last season for the Rams for a total of 270 yards. Obviously he was more productive as a running back than pass-catcher last year.
Cowboys officials will try to sell the decision to keep Austin at wide receiver as the best use of his talents. It’s much more likely it’s a sign the organization is seriously concerned about their options at wide receiver. The team heads into 2018 with a projected starting trio of Austin, Terrance Williams and Deonte Thompson. That group is going to need a lot of help from Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ running game to achieve average production.
It’s still safe to expect Austin to have a bounce back season of some description. It would be hard for him to be utilized less than he was in Los Angeles last year. Prescott is going to have to throw the ball to someone and Austin has similar talent to his other options.
That might make Austin an intriguing fantasy option, but don’t expect him to really move the needle for the Cowboys’ win total. Keeping him at wide receiver is a clear sign of desperation by Garrett and company. It may pay off in the end for Dallas, but it’s not something fans should get overly excited about.