Star Evaluation: Can Tavon Austin Stay Healthy?

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With the start of free agency earlier this month, the Cowboys have had their share of players already come and go.

However, the majority of the 2019 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they've been and where they're going.

Today, we'll continue the series with wide receiver Tavon Austin.

What's Been Good: When he was actually on the field, Austin showed flashes of the playmaking ability that made him a first-round draft pick. He smoked his coverage for a 64-yard touchdown on the third play of Week 2. He scored the Cowboys' only touchdown against Seattle the very next week. The six times the coaching staff actually called for him to carry the ball, he averaged nine yards per touch. In the playoffs, he showed his ability as a punter returner with a 51-yard return – not to mention an 80-yard return that was called back by a holding penalty.

What's Been Bad: Austin missed 10 consecutive weeks in the regular season with a groin injury, resulting in career-lows in both receptions and rushing attempts. While there was speculation towards the end of the regular season that Austin might end up on IR, he was able to make a return for the playoffs. But overall, Austin's impact on the Cowboys' offense, or even in the return game, didn't meet the expectations the Cowboys set for him when they traded for him on draft weekend.

2018 Highlight: There were a couple of big moments for Austin despite his limited time on the field, but in Week 2 against the Giants, he set the tone early in the game by running by the New York secondary for a 64-yard touchdown catch from Dak Prescott on the third play from scrimmage. It was also the third-longest touchdown reception of Austin's career.

What's Next: Having re-signed on a one-year deal, Austin will be hoping to run it back with better results in 2019. The Cowboys have a new offensive coordinator in Kellen Moore, so perhaps there's cause for optimism that he can scheme up better ways to use the speedster. There are definitely touches to be had for a talent like Austin, although his role probably won't be significantly larger than it was. The front office signed Randall Cobb to be the primary option in the slot, and there are a ton of young receivers behind Austin on the depth chart. In a perfect world, he can seize the punt returner job while also contributing touches as a slot receiver and gadget back. If he can stay healthy, you'd like to think he can manage more than the 14 total touches he received in 2018.Bryan's Bottom Line: I'll admit I was too optimistic in the addition of Tavon Austin. There were moments of brilliance, but also there was also that largely unfilled promise which has been the story of his career. What I didn't expect was that Austin was going to miss the majority of the season with an injury and that clearly set him back. Once the trade was made, I was hopeful that Scott Linehan could recapture that electric player I observed at West Virginia. Next to Reggie Bush, I have never scouted a college player that made me hold my breath with the ball in his hands like Austin did. He had rare ability and even to this day I believe he still is capable of those types of moments -- but honestly, he's now running out of time. The front office has assembled a deep group of receivers and there is no guarantee that he's even going to make the final roster. What Tavon Austin needs is a training camp of good health and Kellen Moore to come up with a plan for him that other offensive coordinators have failed to do.

When he was healthy, Tavon Austin showed flashes of his talent. Now that he has re-signed, the speedster has to show it more consistently.

Bryan's Bottom Line: I'll admit I was too optimistic in the addition of Tavon Austin. There were moments of brilliance, but also there was also that largely unfilled promise which has been the story of his career. What I didn't expect was that Austin was going to miss the majority of the season with an injury and that clearly set him back. Once the trade was made, I was hopeful that Scott Linehan could recapture that electric player I observed at West Virginia. Next to Reggie Bush, I have never scouted a college player that made me hold my breath with the ball in his hands like Austin did. He had rare ability and even to this day I believe he still is capable of those types of moments -- but honestly, he's now running out of time. The front office has assembled a deep group of receivers and there is no guarantee that he's even going to make the final roster. What Tavon Austin needs is a training camp of good health and Kellen Moore to come up with a plan for him that other offensive coordinators have failed to do.

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