Dallas Cowboys tight end Blake Jarwin had a breakout game in Week 17. Can the second-year player take that momentum into the playoffs?
One position the Dallas Cowboys surely felt secure about entering 2018 was tight end. That’s due to the fact future Hall of Famer Jason Witten had manned the position for 15 seasons straight And at age 35, Witten didn’t give an indication he was ready to hang up his cleats yet.
But during the NFL draft in late April, there were rumblings. Witten might decide to retire in order to pursue a broadcasting career in the booth for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Surprised by the news, the Cowboys opted to draft Stanford tight end Dalton Schultz in the fourth round of the draft just in case.
A week later, Witten up and retired. And the Cowboys were suddenly left without their Hall of Fame tight end and only a fourth-round rookie to replace him. Free agency wasn’t an option as the majority of the top veterans were signed back in March.
With little to no other option, the Cowboys had to hope a starter would emerge from their current depth chart. Along with the rookie Schultz, there was former seventh-rounder Geoff Swaim, undrafted second-year tight end Blake Jarwin and former basketball star Rico Gathers.
Swaim started in nine of the Cowboys first 10 games before a broken wrist sidelined him. He posted 26 receptions for 242 yards and one touchdown in that span. Swaim was actually a pretty solid replacement for Witten until his injury.
Without Swaim, Jarwin and Schultz started to get more snaps … and make plays. And in Week 17, it was Blake who posted a better performance than Witten ever did in his 15-year career. Jarwin would record seven catches for 119 yards and three touchdowns against the New York Giants at home. It was a phenomenal performance many believe might have been a one-game fluke.
But the fact is Jarwin’s production the past few weeks has been trending in this direction. And without running back Ezekiel Elliott in the mix against the Giants, the emphasis on the passing game benefited the 6-foot-5, 260-pound target.
In fact, last Sunday’s game wasn’t even the first time Jarwin posted seven receptions in a game this season. He had done so just three weeks earlier in a seven reception, 56-yard performance against the reigning Super Champion Philadelphia Eagles. The 24-year old tight end ended his sophomore season in Dallas bringing in 20 receptions for 228 yards and those three touchdowns in his final four games combined.
Now the question is can Jarwin maintain that positive momentum heading into the postseason against the Seattle Seahawks? One thing is for sure: After Sunday’s performance, the Seahawks will certainly have to gameplan for him. And that means less time to gameplan for others.
But for Blake Jarwin himself, he may be looking for some redemption against the Seahawks this Saturday night. In their previous Week Three matchup, Jarwin bobbled a pass in the red zone late into the fourth quarter that resulted in an Earl Thomas interception. He’s likely not forgotten that play and he might end up getting his revenge in the playoffs.