Dallas Cowboys: Let’s be realistic about Jason Witten

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Jason Witten announced his return to football and to America’s Team. The whole nation is excited, but what can he really do for the Dallas Cowboys?

The world was shocked when it was announced that the much loved tight end, Jason Witten, is coming back to the Dallas Cowboys. The tight end was set to sign a one-year deal worth $3.5 million, per Adam Schefter.

Now that everyone has had a few days to think over whether or not the decision was good or bad, let’s talk about what he will do for the squad. The most impactful trait that Witten will bring is his experience.

Dallas has a very young roster with a promising future. According to NBC Sports reporter, Charean Williams, the Cowboys were the first playoff team to not have a single starter over the age of 30 in over 30 years.

For a football team, youth is a double-edged sword. On one hand, youthful players are faster and stronger than older players. On the other hand, youthful players are prone to making dumb mistakes.

The biggest critique against quarterback Dak Prescott is that he struggles with ball placement. But the inconsistencies of the young players did not help Prescott out either. In fact, Prescott’s first four interceptions came off the hands of receivers.

Some of these were kind of high, but those same balls will be caught by Witten. Though Witten’s speed has decreased with age, his hands are still atop of the league. In 2017, out of all tight ends with at least 50 targets, Witten had the fourth highest catch percentage (77.8 percent), per Pro Football Focus.

Granted these targets are not deep down the field like the Kansas City Chief’s Travis Kelce, but when a ball is thrown to Witten he usually catches it. The future Hall of Famer was always a reliable option for Prescott in his first two years.

Dallas might lose receiver Cole Beasley in free agency, leaving a huge hole in the gameplan. So the Cowboys might need someone who can catch short passes and build up some rhythm in the passing game. Who better fill this void than Witten?

In 2018, Prescott had to result to throwing check-down passes to running back Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott is a playmaker, so giving him the ball in the flat is not the worst idea. However, throwing to an open Witten four yards down the field will yield more consistent results than targeting Elliott minus four yards down the field.

Witten will also ease some of the team’s red zone struggles. The Cowboys’ offense was pathetic once they entered inside the 20-yard line. They did not run the ball enough, and when they ran with Elliott they were not successful.

Why was it not successful? Well without a dominant offensive line and a blocking tight end, Dallas tried to pull lineman across and getting trap blocks.

With Witten’s ability to block and find ways to create a safe target in the endzone, the Cowboys can just line up in 11 personnel (one running back and one tight end) and either pass or run. If they run, they can’t waste time and do a counter or miss direction.

It sounds elementary, but just run it up the gut. Counters and misdirections are more likely to end up as a negative play compared to simple runs out or inside. If it does not work on the goal line, try it on second down–then third– then fourth.

Witten has always been a mentor to players. But he will also be sort of a coach. The veteran tight end on a one year deal does not have to worry about another down the depth chart taking his place. Witten’s mindset is that this is his last shot at a Super Bowl.

Witten has said in the past that he wishes to one day coach. 2019 will give him a little taste of what it is like, similar to what offensive coordinator Kellen Moore went through.

Witten and Moore know what Prescott likes and does not like. They know what he does well and what he does not do so well.

It would be crazy to think Witten will record 700 yards and eight touchdowns. But adding 400-500 yards, three to four touchdowns, and only a few drops could be just enough to propel the offense.

Last offseason, the Cowboys’ front office claimed they wanted to make the offense “Dak friendly”. With the addition of wide receiver Amari Cooper and a sure-handed Witten, the receiving core is beginning to look the part.

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What do you think are realistic expectations for Jason Witten? Do you think resigning him was the right decision for the Dallas Cowboys? Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below!

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