Credit Dak Prescott for trying to boost the confidence of his wide receivers during the preseason, but he can’t afford to rely on Tavon Austin.
The departure of Dez Bryant combined with the retirement of Jason Witten leaves the Cowboys in a tough spot this season. It will force Dak Prescott to rely on a really weak group of wide receivers. If the Dallas quarterback puts too much trust in Tavon Austin, it’s going to turn out poorly for the team’s passing attack.
Cowboys fans should be concerned that it appears Prescott is headed down that exact path. He recently told reporters how impressed he was with Austin as a receiver. Specifically, he exceeded his new quarterback’s expectations as both a route-runner and a pass-catcher. On the surface, that seems like great news for Dallas.
Unfortunately, Austin’s career performance doesn’t reflect Prescott’s scouting report. We’re talking about a player who was deemed to be worthless by Sean McVay in Los Angeles. As a reminder, the Rams’ coach is widely regarded as one of the brightest offensive minds in the NFL at the moment.
Perhaps the most concerning part of Prescott’s comments about Austin was his belief that the diminutive wideout can flourish playing outside. If Austin has any shot of reviving his career in Dallas, it’s going to have to happen in the slot. Big cornerbacks on the outside will jam Austin at the line before he ever gets a chance to run a crisp route. He’s a player who needs a free release inside to use his speed to threaten opposing defenders.
The ugly truth is that Austin will need to have a career season to produce anything meaningful for the Cowboys. He’s never had more than 509 yards receiving in his NFL career. If Jason Garrett and company really intend to give him a starting role, he’ll need to produce something in the neighborhood of 800 yards receiving to approach becoming an average starter.
For the record, it’s very possible that Austin can put up a career season this year in terms of numbers. The Cowboys, after all, aren’t blessed with very many quality options at his position. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be a quality weapon for the Cowboys. Austin could just benefit from being the best player in a very uninspiring group of wide receivers.
Cowboys fans need to hope Ezekiel Elliott has a massive 2018. If Jason Garrett is forced to rely on Dak Prescott’s ability to throw to Tavon Austin to make plays, it could be a long year in Big D.