Cowboys rookie tight ends making most of Dalton Schultz’s injury situation

Cowboys, Jake Ferguson. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Cowboys, Jake Ferguson. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys have had their fair share of injury issues this offseason and at the start of 2022. From Michael Gallup to James Washington to Dak Prescott to Connor McGovern to Dalton Schultz, this team has had to ask a lot of its depth pieces early on.

For Dalton Schultz, this is certainly not the way he wanted his year to start. After amassing 78 receptions for 808 yards last year, Schultz emerged as a reliable target for the Cowboys’ offense. When Blake Jarwin wasn’t healing properly from a strange hip injury, the Dallas front office had no choice but to put him on the franchise tag.

So far this season, the Stanford product only has nine catches for 80 yards. Most of that is, of course, thanks to the injury he suffered in Week 2. An MRI showed he had a PCL sprain in his knee that caused him to miss Week 3, but Schultz was back in Week 4 (although he did not have a single catch).

Although Schultz had no game designation and was deemed ready to play on Friday, he ended up being a surprise scratch for the Sunday Night Football game. This is what Stephen Jones said about the decision to keep the 26-year-old out against the Eagles:

"“He tweaked his knee in that ramp-up day on Saturday. Just felt like he couldn’t play at the level he needed to be productive for us,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan. “He, Britt Brown [associate athletic trainer/director of rehabilitation], and the coaches just felt like it was in our best interest after he tweaked it to not dress him.”"

While it’s never ideal to have a started, or anyone for that matter, miss time with injury, the Cowboys have done a great job at securing depth that once wasn’t really there in the tight end position. In Schultz’s absence, 2022 draft pick Jake Ferguson and UDFA Peyton Hendershot have taken full advantage of the snaps they’ve gotten. In fact, they may be giving him a battle for snaps once he returns to full health.

Both the rookie tight ends and depth piece Sean McKeon were major contributors against the Eagles. In fact, Ferguson had an impressive, borderline basketball-looking, move that got him his first NFL touchdown.

Cowboys rookies Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot are stepping up in Dalton Schultz’s absence

The Wisconsin product started in Schultz’s place, and to what is likely the Joneses’ delight, looked like a future starting tight end (which would save them a lot of money in 2023). Ferguson had four catches, 40 receiving yards, and a touchdown against one of the best teams in football with a backup quarterback.

He was also a versatile threat. Ferguson showed his quickness as a receiver, his blocking ability, and his quick hands. His touchdown even brought the Cowboys to within a field goal against Philly.

The UDFA out of Indiana had his snap count increase, too. After his impressive hurdle move in the game against the New York Giants, got more moments to shine with Schultz out. He participated in 61% of offensive snaps and half of special teams snaps. Hendershot caught two passes for 22 yards as well.

Even Sean McKeon, who Hendershot and Ferguson beat out for a 53-man roster spot, had a reception for 10 yards.

For a position that used to struggle with depth, things are looking up. As far as Schultz’s status moving forward, he’s continuing to nurse his knee sprain for now but was a full participant in practice on Wednesday. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who was allegedly surprised by Schultz being out on Sunday, is taking a “we’ll see how it goes” approach:

"“I don’t know. To me, that is a question mark. He was a surprise for me at the end of [last] week. I can’t speak to that. We’ll have to see as this week goes.”"

We hope that Schultz heals quickly and feels better soon, but it’s certainly nice to know that the options in his absence are great ones.