Everyone knew the return of Jason Witten would add a veteran leader to the locker room. But what impact will he have on the field?
The Dallas Cowboys struggled with inexperienced players at the tight end position last season. And that was due to longtime veteran Jason Witten’s surprise retirement last May. Witten’s void was never filled and as a result the Cowboys suffered from inconsistent play at the position.
What Witten’s absence did allow is for young tight ends like Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and Rico Gathers to gain some much needed playing time. And that extra experience started to pay off later into the year. Especially for Jarwin who was able to post a three-touchdown performance in the team’s final regular season matchup against the New York Giants.
That performance firmly positioned Jarwin as the successor to Witten at the tight end position for the immediate future … and possibly beyond. And when veteran tight end Geoff Swaim up and left Dallas this offseason to join the Jacksonville Jaguars via free agency, it only cemented that fact.
But Witten made yet another surprising decision earlier this year, spurning the color analyst role on ESPN’s Monday Night Football to return the Cowboys as a player at the age of 37. And according to many reports, the aging veteran has picked up where he left off, seemingly regaining the starting role from Jarwin despite his year away.
Here’s what veteran linebacker Sean Lee told ESPN.com about Witten’s return so far.
"“To see [Witten] run, he’s running great. He’s competing like he always has. It’s so fun to have him back just because of the great friendship we have with him, the leadership he shows. You come to work every day knowing Witt’s going to bring it, and you’ve got to take your game and work ethic to the next level.”"
I’m not sure anyone doubted what Witten’s presence would mean to the Cowboys’ locker room. Adding the future Hall of Famer to such a young roster could only mean good things for the team off-the-field. But what about his play on it?
How will WItten’s year away from football impact his production? He posted 63 receptions for 560 yards and five touchdowns in 2017. Can we expect a similar stat line or has rust plus age gotten the best of the 15-year vet?
Will Jason Witten’s knack for getting open remain following his vacation in the broadcast booth?Many seem to believe it will. Can the veteran’s knowledge and football instincts still provide a reliable option for quarterback Dak Prescott in the passing game? We won’t know till Week One. But Witten’s presence is already having an impact this offseason. And I wouldn’t bet against him having one in the regular season as well. Would you?