Scott Linehan Sheds Some Light On His Game Plan For Tavon Austin

FRISCO, Texas –Outside the building, the debate rages.

What type of impact might Tavon Austin be able to make for the Cowboys? What will his role in their offense look like? Most importantly, is he viewed more as a wide receiver or a running back?

Inside the Cowboys' facility, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had a simple answer.

"List him as a tight end," he joked. "I don't care what they list him as, just make sure we've got him on the team."

It's a funny quote, but the sentiment is fair. In the two weeks since the offseason program kicked into high gear, Linehan has arguably been asked more about Austin than any other player on the offense. The 5-8 receiver has handled just about every job duty imaginable during his five-year NFL career, which has prompted a lot of speculation about which jobs he might do here.

As he said during the rookie minicamp, Linehan allowed that he has a lot of things in mind for Austin – but getting him situated in the wide receivers' room is first among them.

"He'll be in all the rooms at some point. He starts with the receiver room, though," Linehan said. "That's what he played in college, been playing in the NFL. He starts there, but he plays a lot of things for us."

Going through his first week of OTAs with the Cowboys, Austin faced plenty of questions himself. When he was asked about his own plan for the coming months, he was pretty straightforward.

"Hopefully I win the punt return job. That's always been my dream to do, and still is," he said. "Pretty much getting the ball in my hands. That's the role I want to take – get the ball in my hands and make something happen."

The first part should be simple enough. After all, the Cowboys shipped their incumbent return man, Ryan Switzer, to Oakland just an hour after acquiring Austin. During his time with the Rams, Austin got plenty of work as a returner. He has 158 career punt returns for an average of 8.4 yards per attempt, as well as 25 career kick returns for an average of 18.

As for the rest, the Cowboys seem content to figure it out as they go. Linehan laughed that Austin is unlikely to rival Ezekiel Elliott's number of carries, but he said there are plenty of ways the Cowboys can get him involved.

"I think he's a weapon. We feel like we can get him the ball in different ways," he said. "Handing it to him is the easiest way, so you can call him a running back when we hand him the ball or a receiver when we throw him the ball or a running back when we throw him the ball out of the back field."

Hopefully, Austin will start getting chances to showcase those abilities during OTAs and minicamp. Obviously, the five-week grind of training camp should provide a more educated guess.

In the meantime, the debate about Tavon Austin's role isn't something the Cowboys are too concerned about.

"The beauty of you not knowing what it is, is the beauty of the other team not knowing what it is, too," Linehan said.

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