Cowboys’ Dalton Schultz reminds everyone he deals with ‘freak athlete’ DEs
Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz wasn’t always the leader in the tight end room. When he arrived to Dallas by way of a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Stanford, he was the low man on the totem pole. In his first year of OTAs, Schultz learned lessons from guys like Geoff Swaim and Jason Witten in order to figure out what it takes to be a strong NFL tight end.
Now, four seasons later, he is taking the leadership role. After solidifying himself as a reliable target for Dak Prescott in 2021, Schultz was put on the franchise tag and is set to lead the tight end corps in 2022. He became only the second Cowboys tight end in franchise history since Witten to collect more than 70 receptions and 800 receiving yards in a single season.
With a breakout season behind him, Schultz is now helping to guide fourth-round pick Jake Ferguson and the other tight ends on the roster, just like former Cowboys did for him when he was a budding rookie. But he’s doing so with some tough love and honesty. The Stanford product warned Ferguson that a lot would be asked of him and that this specific position in football isn’t easy:
"“I made that clear. I just reached out to him when he was drafted and said, ‘Hey, man, you’re going to be asked to do a lot. And it’s going to be like a mental process, in addition to just the transition coming into the league as a rookie tight end. You’re going against guys like DeMarcus Lawrence every week. Everybody is a D-Law. Every team’s got a D-Law.’ So I think you’re asked to do a lot, and you’re asked to do a lot very quickly – especially in this offense and what we ask our tight ends to do is a lot different than some other places.”"
Dalton Schultz talks about the difficulties of being a tight end for the Cowboys and argues his blocking is better than people think
The soon-to-be fifth-year Cowboy also mentioned that tight ends don’t win on size and strength alone. Why? Because this league has some of the biggest, fastest, and strongest defensive ends in recent history. Here’s what he said about going against some of the top defensive talent when talking to the press at OTAs:
"“That’s why they get paid $20-mil-pus a year. They’re freaks. They’re freak athletes. So you’ve got to beat them with technique, you’ve got to beat them with speed, you’ve got to beat them with great footwork. If you’re able to do all of those things, that puts you in a good position to win.”"
Schultz does have a point. Tight ends have a lot to cover. It’s not just running routes and catching passes. One of those important elements of being a tight end is blocking. Analysts and fans seem to be mixed on how they feel Schultz is as a blocker. Some believe he’s far better than Blake Jarwin was and others feel he mostly acts as a receiver.
If you ask the franchise-tagged player himself, he feels he is a good blocker despite what critics say.
"“My blocking’s been one of my strong suits,” he countered. “Everybody doesn’t agree with that; everyone has their own opinion on that. But that’s always something I’ve been able to hang my hat on.”"
Schultz points out that when you’re a receiver who is tasked with blocking guys like Chandler Jones, you’re simply not going to win every rep. However, he believes his drive, determination, and work ethic will get him where he needs to be. He’s used the offseason to correct and fine-tune things that didn’t go as well as planned in 2021.
The Cowboys’ tight end hopes that with more reps and practice he will be able to hold his own against the “freak athletes” around the league. For now, he is focused on bulking up and leading the receiving corps. He’s also waiting to see if the front office will take him off the franchise tag and put him on a long-term contract.