Dallas Cowboys: It’s time to start using 10 personnel
In his prime, Jason Witten could be relied on for every facet of the tight end position. He could run and pass block at a high level, as well as be a threat in the deep middle and red zone.
It wouldn’t be uncommon to see him lined up out wide or in the slot as he was too big and physical for defensive backs and too technically sound and athletic for linebackers.
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Unfortunately, as his athleticism declined significantly, Witten’s impact as a pseudo wide receiver and deep middle target faded. Even though his blocking and red zone abilities didn’t fall off too much, he became limited as a player.
And in a 2017 season where the Cowboys sorely needed a downfield threat who could open up a defense, Witten could not provide the same impact he could’ve in his prime.
And since the team would never bench Witten and he would never allow it, (Witten played 98% of the snaps in 2017), this handcuffed what the offense could do personnel-wise. Since he can’t be as effective as he used to be split wide and he won’t be subbed, the team has to play in packages that include an in-line tight end.
This shrinks what the offensive staff can call and what the defense has to expect. Along with former wide receiver Dez Bryant‘s lack of route versatility, you can see how defenses can be able to get a pretty good idea of what to expect the team to line up in and consequently run.
Witten and Bryant’s departure opens a void in the offense, but can also lead to more flexibility and diversity in packages and play-calling. With a new receiving corps filled with versatile route runners who can move around to different spots, as well as a tight end group with players that fit the athletic profile needed for a downfield receiving threat; the team could have its most flexible group of match-ups yet.