Dallas Cowboys: We need to talk more about Dalton Schultz

Dalton Schultz #86 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Dalton Schultz #86 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys’ tight end has been turning heads in 2020

Heading into the 2020 season, all offseason long fans heard almost non-stop chatter about a potential breakout tight end on the Dallas Cowboys‘ roster. As the team heads into the final quarter of their season, it’s safe to say that they have one alright, it’s just not who anyone expected. Instead of Blake Jarwin, third-year tight end Dalton Schultz has found a way to become a consistent contributor on offense for a team that has lacked stability all season.

After signing a four-year deal this past March, many assumed that 2020 would finally be the year that Jarwin was able to put it all together and earn his place as the heir apparent to future Hall of Famer Jason Witten. With Witten leaving Dallas for the Las Vegas Raiders, there was no excuse for Jarwin to not get the vast majority of snaps at tight end anymore. However, when he tore his ACL during the season-opening loss to the Los Angles Rams, Dalton Schultz was thrust into the starting lineup to replace him and he hasn’t looked back since.

Coming into the season Schultz was primarily viewed as a blocking tight end, and his 13 career receptions didn’t exactly inspire a world of confidence that he could step in and be a consistent offensive threat. His lack of production as a receiver in college at Stanford was a big reason why he slipped to the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round of the 2018 draft.

Especially once the Cowboys signed Blake Bell from the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs and former Michigan tight end Sean McKeon as an undrafted free agent, many saw Schultz as an afterthought. However, over the course of this year, he has gone from a potential cut candidate early in camp to someone who should be part of Dallas’ long-term offensive plans.

On the season Schultz’s 48 receptions are tied for sixth among all eligible tight ends. He’s combined that with 476 yards and three touchdowns. Considering how injuries have forced instability at quarterback this season, it’s been extremely impressive to see how Schultz has been able to produce regardless of who has been under center. The way he has continued to develop despite the play of everyone around him and a revolving door of quarterbacks has been a true bright spot this season.

Aside from his raw numbers, the Cowboys’ signal-callers have all been extremely successful when throwing to Schultz. The cumulative passer rating of 95.9 that Dallas quarterbacks have when targeting him is second-best among eligible receivers on the team behind only rookie wideout CeeDee Lamb’s 99.1.

No one is going to mistake Schultz for Travis Kelce out in Kansas City or George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers, but he doesn’t need to be. Health assuming, this team has a ton of talent at their skill positions, and Schultz can still play a very valuable role for them. He’s already demonstrated a willingness and ability to block upfront, as well as shown a ton of development as a pass-catcher.

It’s clear that Schultz should continue to have a role on the offense and it will be a lot of fun to see how Dallas will utilize him alongside a healthy Jarwin next year. The two of them should complement each other nicely too. While Schultz has proven to be a reliable target in his own right, Jarwin is far more of a vertical threat. That alone should allow the Cowboys to call some unique plays out of a two-tight end set next season.

Combine both Jarwin and Schultz with wide receivers Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup to go alongside a healthy Dak Prescott at quarterback, and the Cowboys passing attack could be downright deadly next season.

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There is no denying that this season has been filled with far more downs than ups for the Dallas Cowboys. However, it has been the emergence of players like Dalton Schultz who have seized every opportunity to develop into quality starters that has made the team watchable for much of it.