As we continue to look at the 2013 performance and the future of the Dallas Cowboys we come now to the Tight End Position to assess the grading of the players there.
Inevitably the bulk of the conversation deserves to be about the best TE in Cowboys History, Jason Witten. If you look at his record setting 2012 and his 2103 side by side it looks like a drastic drop off. In 2012 he set the NFL record for receptions by a TE with 110. That was 1 short of the Cowboys record of 111 set by Michael Irvin in 1995. In 2013 Witten’s recption total plummeted from that lofty height to 73. That is 37 fewer receptions.
Is there cause for alarm at this decline? Not if you stop and look at what Jason did with the receptions. The Offense graduated a little and did not need to rely on him as much as it did in 2012. Part of that was undoubtedly the emergence of a couple of young Wide Receivers we graded last week, and also the fact that we used the Running Backs a bit more as safety valves for Tony Romo. In doing this it is quite natural to have some of the focus taken off of Jason Witten.
The biggest factor undoubtedly was the emergence of Dez Bryant as the guy we look for most in the passing game. Rightfully so given his incredible talent. So Witten went from the #1 receiving option to the #2 receiving option. Did any #2 receiving option in the NFL have more receptions than his 73? The answer is yes. In Chicago Alshon Jeffrey had a huge year and in Denver so did Eric Decker. New Orleans had two players put up more receptions on top of their go to guy, TE Jimmy Graham.