Did the Dallas Cowboys miss Jason Witten in 2018?
By Richard Ball
The Dallas Cowboys missed Jason Witten in 2018. We knew this would be the case when he announced his retirement at the 2018 NFL draft.
Tight end Jason Witten is one of the all-time best player ever to suit up for the Dallas Cowboys. Witten was the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012 for his off-the-field community service and playing excellence. He is a sure-fire Cowboys’ Ring of Honor candidate and he’ll be enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame most likely in January 2023 when his five-year wait period expires.
Witten’s leadership was legendary. He was always there to support his teammates and to take accountability even when he shouldn’t. Witten was an eleven-time Pro Bowl selection and a two-time first team All-Pro. He was as good a blocker as he was a receiver. Quite simply, Jason was a complete tight end, model teammate and exemplary human being.
But the harsh truth is the Cowboys didn’t miss his on-the-field production in 2018. Quick, which set of numbers represent the Dallas tight end production from 2017 and 2018?
- 69 catches on 98 targets for 673 yards and 6 touchdowns
- 68 catches on 92 targets for 710 yards and 4 touchdowns
It’s hard to tell which year is which since the numbers are so close. Witten’s five touchdowns in 2017 were more than the entire group of tight ends produced in 2018. But besides that, the production between the two years is nearly identical.
Witten’s 63 catches for 560 receiving yards in 2017 were the lowest total in his career besides his rookie season. His 35-year old body was not able to keep up with his football intellect and his leadership abilities.
Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz are the future at the tight end position. The 24-year old Jarwin caught 20 passes in the last four regular season games and the 22-year old Schultz made noticeable improvement over the second half of the season when he earned a regular game day roster spot in week 9.
As the Cowboys check their needs, there will certainly be people clamoring for a prolific tight end. The ‘Boys have had a rich tight end history with Billy Joe DuPree, Jay Novacek and even an end of career Mike Ditka playing the position besides Witten.
Without a first round draft pick, do you think a second round or even a third round draft pick will help the Cowboys in 2019? Witten caught 35 balls as a rookie.
2018 second round draft picks Dallas Goedert caught 33 passes for the Eagles and Mike Gesicki 22 passes for the Dolphins. First round draft pick Hayden Hurst caught 13 balls for the Ravens, only one more catch than Schultz, the Cowboys 4th round draft pick.
Any draft pick the Cowboys make at the position will be for 2020 or beyond. Dallas will only get better at the position in 2019 by developing Jarwin and Schultz or signing a priority free agent which they likely won’t consider.
Expect the Dallas Cowboys to draft a tight end in April. But don’t count on it being a Day Two draft pick. This team has other pressing needs to address with their first two selections.