The Dallas Cowboys had one of the worst tight end units in the NFL last season. While the only reasonable direction to go from there is up, will they?
Last season’s tight end group for the Dallas Cowboys was arguably one of the worst units in the NFL. Featuring a now departed Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, and Rico Gathers, they were much less than unimpressive on last season. From that vantage, they should only be able to improve when considering last year’s showing, but will they?
Among the entire group last season, they accounted for 68 receptions on 92 targets, 710 receiving yards, and only 4 touchdowns. To completely put these lackluster numbers into perspective and according to NFL.com, Zach Ertz of the Eagles led tight ends in the league last season in receptions at 116, San Francisco’s George Kittle led all tight ends in yardage at 1,377, while Eric Ebron of the Indianapolis Colts led the league for tight ends in touchdowns with 13. These were all numbers that the Cowboys’ tight end group as a unit could have only imagined to reach.
With Geoff Swaim now a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Cowboys’ tight end room now consist of Schultz, Gathers, Jarwin, and the returning Cowboys legend in Jason Witten. The question still remains though, will be they be better?
That remains to be seen, but there is a better than good chance that they will be. The one thing that provides more encouragement that any other factor is the return of future Hall of Famer Jason Witten. While we all know he is an NFL ironman when it comes to games played, he is also a player that likes to take as many of the offensive snaps as humanly possible, or at least that’s the way it used to be.
With the debate about just how much Witten will play already starting, he will surely attempt to give the Cowboys as much as they will take from him in his return to the gridiron. This should be a good thing, especially considering the fact that we are talking about a guy with 1,152 career receptions, 12,448 career receiving yards, and 68 touchdowns. These are figures that rank him fourth all time in receptions overall (2nd among tight ends), 21st overall in total receiving yards (2nd among tight ends), and tied for 47th overall in receiving touchdowns (5th among tight ends).
Witten’s return is also in combination with presumptive progression from the returning corp of Schultz, Jarwin, and Gathers. Both Jarwin and Schultz showed slight flashes on last season, while some are even speculating on whether new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore‘s system could open things up for Rico Gathers. After being with the Cowboys over the past three seasons and seemingly sticking around for a fourth, the Cowboys probably still see value in his size at 6 foot 6 and the athleticism that propelled him to be one of the best rebounding big men in the college game during his hoop years at Baylor.
Even if Gathers can only offer up limited snaps during the season, his unique physical profile along with the accrued football knowledge over the past few seasons should allow him to at minimum be a threat in the red zone area. At this point, we at least hope so.
With this group anchored by the respected veteran and future Hall of Famer, they have no choice but to be better. Even if only a slight improvement, they have to be.
Again, with the way that they played last season, to be worst would mean that they aren’t even suiting up. If the Cowboys want to win big in this upcoming season, they will need production from this group, and frankly I believe they will get it.