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If Activated, Where Would Rico Gathers Fit Offensively?

Brian Martin

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If Activated, Where Does Rico Gathers Fit Offensively?

The Dallas Cowboys and their fans have already seen a seasons worth of disappointment through their first five games of the 2017 season. There seems to be a cloud of negativity surrounding this year’s squad, so any good news is  definitely a welcomed addition. That is why all of Cowboys Nation might be excited to learn that tight end Rico Gathers is eligible to return to practice.

According to NFL rules, teams are able to designate two different players they have placed on injured reserve and bring them back during the season. Rico Gathers is a prime candidate to be one of these players for the Cowboys and is eligible to start practicing with the team after missing six weeks of the season. But, he cannot be added to the active roster until after Week 8 is completed.

With the NFL season entering Week 7, Gathers can now get back on the practice field with the Cowboys. In fact, he did just that Wednesday, although in a limited fashion.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Rico Gathers has returned to working with Cowboys athletic trainers

This is certainly a step in the right direction for Rico Gathers, and quite possibly the Dallas Cowboys as well. Gathers now has two more weeks to get back into football shape and prove to the coaching staff he is worth adding to the active roster.

The Cowboys offense hasn’t been terrible by any means, but they could definitely use more production from the tight end position. Future Hall of Famer Jason Witten leads the team in receptions with 27, but is only averaging a measly 8.5 yards per reception. James Hanna and Geoff Swaim have just one reception between the two of them, although it did result in Hanna standing alone in the end zone.

Rico Gathers could possibly add a much needed spark to the tight end position if activated. He looked really impressive during the Cowboys first two preseason games, catching seven passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, his preseason was cut short due to the previous mentioned concussion.

Rico Gathers, Rams

TE Rico Gathers

Now, as much as I would like to see Gathers added to the active roster, I just don’t know where he would fit in the offensive game plan. All three TEs ahead of him on the depth chart are more reliable/prepared at this point in their careers, but none of them have his playmaking ability.

Would the Cowboys be willing to keep four tight ends on the active roster and how many would they have available on game days? Who would be the odd man out? These are questions the Cowboys coaching staff will have to answer before making such a big decision.

Roster spots become more and more valuable as the season progresses. Carrying four TEs on the roster may be a luxury they can’t afford. But, if they believe Rico Gathers can be another offensive weapon and perhaps a difference maker, it’s an easy decision.

Gathers is after all 6’8″ and a mismatch for any defensive back to cover anywhere on the field, especially in the red zone. He still needs work with his blocking, but adding yet another weapon in the passing game for Dak Prescott could help the entire offense be even more dangerous.

I’m personally torn on whether or not Rico Gathers should be added to the active roster. Thankfully, I’m not the one that has to make the decision.

What kind of offensive role do you think Rico Gathers can have with the Dallas Cowboys? Let me hear your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below or hit me up on Twitter @BrianMartinNFL.

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Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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6 Comments
  • Fatfan

    easy decision for me…activate AND utilize Gathers. Who wouldn’t want his playmaking ability on the field.

    • Brian Martin

      I just wonder if OC Scott Linehan can find a way to work him into the game plan. He hasn’t been all that creative already this season. Plus, the Cowboys might need to add more depth to the defensive side of the ball. It’s a really a tosssup for me.

  • Travis Diggs

    At this point you have to get him in there. What do you have to lose?? While this offense is potent at times, they are pretty predictable in most situations. Every fan at home knows where the ball is going which hurts to watch some games knowing the defense sees it too. Dez only runs three routes, t will is average, and witten’s routes are limited. We still have some good Defenses on the schedule(PHI twice, KC, SEA, NY) We have to get as creative as possible because this offense has to carry this team to a playoff run.

    • Brian Martin

      Travis, the only problem with what you said is the bottom denominator… Scott Linehan. I’m not sure if he’s capable of finding ways of getting creative with Gathers. He’s already predictable enough with the pieces he has and I’m not sure that would change unfortunately. I can honestly come up with convincing arguments for why to activate Gathers and why not to. I think they probably will because he is such a matchup problem, but I’m not sure how involved he will end up being.

  • EverybodyTalks

    Wondering if Zeke going on suspension, be the slot that becomes available for Rico Gathers to be activated. Or simply, Zeke gets his Brady extension and one of the veteran RBs gets cut. “Come on down, Rico!” When you look at who has been cut so far this season, it has mostly been on the defensive side. Maybe it is time for the offense to chop somebody and send them on their way. I could also see Rico go for three weeks and then go back on IR for the rest of the year.

    • Brian Martin

      The Dallas Cowboys currently have four TEs on the roster after calling up Blake Jarwin from the PS. I kind of doubt Rico Gathers is activated this year. I think the only way that happens is if there was an injury to the position. I don’t think Zeke’s suspension situation has anything to do with it.

      I’m not sure what they will do with the vet RBs. Likely just keep them for insurance unless they need to add some more depth at another position because of injuries a little later in the season.

      Also, the reason we see more moves being made on the defensive side of the ball is because it is much more unsettled compared to the offense.

Star Blog

Will Ryan Switzer see an Increased Offensive Role in 2018?

Brian Martin

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Will Ryan Switzer see an Increased Offensive Role in 2018?

The Dallas Cowboys clearly had a specific role in mind for Ryan Switzer when they drafted him 133rd overall in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Come to find out, that role didn’t include being involved much on the offensive side of the ball, at least not as a rookie.

After watching the way the Cowboys utilized Ryan Switzer in 2017, it’s pretty obvious the sole purpose he was drafted was to improve the special-teams play in the return game.

They clearly didn’t envision him being a part of the game plan on offense, despite the continuous outcry from fans.

Like most rookies, Ryan Switzer didn’t really get off to a fast start, and took a while to get used to the speed of the NFL. But, once he calmed his nerves and regained his confidence, he proved to be an upgrade in the return game.

Switzer ended up ranking third in kickoff returns, averaging 25 yards per return in 2017 and 12th in punt returns with almost 9 yards per return.

He also became the first Dallas Cowboys player to return a punt for a touchdown since 2013. He accomplished this against the Washington Redskins, in Week 13 when he took an 83-yarder to the house.

Surprisingly enough, using Ryan Switzer solely as a return specialist wasn’t enough for a lot of Cowboys Nation. A lot of fans wanted to see his talents utilized more on the offensive side of the ball as well, but were only left disappointed.

Ryan Switzer

Dallas Cowboys WR Ryan Switzer

Getting Switzer involved in the offensive game plan just wasn’t in the cards in 2017.

He only managed to catch six passes for 41 yards and rushed four times for 5 yards. This isn’t exactly what Cowboys fans envisioned after hearing Switzer was opening a lot eyes in training camp and organized team activities (OTAs). That was the main problem.

He was hyped up so much heading into the season that fans expected to see him involved much more on offense.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, had something else in mind, but I doubt that’s the case for the upcoming 2018 season.

I really think we’re going to see an increased role for Ryan Switzer next season.

The Cowboys coaching staff should have a much better understanding of his strengths and weaknesses now that he has a year in the system under his belt. And, they’ve seen firsthand how explosive he can be with the ball in his hands.

What the Cowboys coaching staff will have to determine this offseason is just how big of a role Switzer will have next year.

Should Switzer take Cole Beasley‘s job?

Cole Beasley, like the rest of the Cowboys receivers, had a down year in 2017. We shouldn’t assume that his job is safe, especially with someone like Ryan Switzer waiting in the wings. But, is Switzer ready to take over full-time?

Tough decisions will have to be made eventually, but such is life in the NFL.

Will Ryan Switzer see an increased offensive role in 2018?

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Star Blog

Will Terrance Williams be Back with Cowboys in 2018?

Brian Martin

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Will Terrance Williams be Back with Cowboys in 2018?

Each offseason tough decisions have to be made by teams around the NFL, and the Dallas Cowboys are no exception. Teams have to decide who to promote, who to demote, and who to cut ties with altogether. For the Cowboys, Terrance Williams fits into one of those three categories, but which one?

It was plainly obvious that the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers all had an extremely disappointing 2017 season.

Everybody has their own opinion as to why this happened, but one thing is for sure, the Cowboys coaching staff will definitely look at ways to get more out of their receiving core. The one player who I think could be affected most by whatever decision the coaching staff ends up making is Terrance Williams.

Williams didn’t do much to make a case for keeping his starting job in 2017, let alone sticking on the roster.

To say he had a disappointing season would be an understatement.

Williams finished the 2017 season with just 53 receptions for 568 receiving yards and absolutely zero touchdowns. The Cowboys were likely hoping for more production from someone they just signed to a four-year, $17-million contract extension back in March [2017].

Now, you can make the argument Williams took a team discount in order to stay in Dallas, but that doesn’t carry much weight when your production leaves so much to be desired. This is especially true when there might be somebody on the roster who can do just as well, and possibly be an upgrade.

Noah Brown

Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Yes, if you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m talking about Noah Brown.

I know I’m not alone here, but I think Noah Brown could easily replace Terrance Williams’ production. I understand that there’s not much evidence to back up that statement based on Brown’s rookie season, but he has all the tools required to succeed.

This is really all about potential, and Noah Brown simply has more upside than Terrance Williams.

We all know what Terrance Williams is as a receiver, and what he brings to the table for the Cowboys offense. I believe Noah Brown can do all the things Williams does and has the potential to be even better.

I already think Noah Brown is a better blocker, something the Cowboys coaching staff really values about Williams. I also think Brown is a better pass catcher. He is a natural hands catcher and has a large catching radius, something Williams obviously isn’t (body catcher).

Right now, Williams is only better than Noah Brown in a few areas. He is slightly faster, he’s more advanced as a route runner, and has more experience. That’s about it.

This will obviously be a tough decision for the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff to make. But, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if we see Terrance Williams playing somewhere else when the 2018 season kicks off.

Do you think Terrance Williams will be with the Cowboys in 2018?

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Star Blog

Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?

Sean Martin

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Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 3

Three of the four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs — a win away from the Super Bowl — ranked within the top four defensively in yards per game allowed this season. The other is the defending-champion New England Patriots, who of course were expected to reach yet another AFC Championship game, thanks to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Somewhere between this field, losing their 2017 hopes at a deep playoff run to injuries, suspensions, and just poor execution at times, are the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys ranked eighth in yards allowed per game at 318.1 this season.

On the surface, all this provides hope that typically springs eternal around the league through the offseason.

It has been far too long since the Cowboys defense matched the skill level of the team’s offense, but Rod Marinelli’s unit (not exactly by design) outplayed that of Scott Linehan’s at times through this 9-7 campaign.

This defensive rebuild in Dallas began with the admission that this group had reached their ceiling in the offseason, as the Cowboys let long-time starters like CB Morris Claiborne, CB Brandon Carr, S Barry Church (now with the Jaguars), and S J.J. Wilcox go in free agency.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense?

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods (AP Photo / Ron Jenkins)

For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, looking to turn over an entire secondary in a division featuring Carson Wentz, Eli Manning, and Kirk Cousins as quickly as the Cowboys did was a risky move. Their confidence in hitting on draft picks paid off though.

The Cowboys’ bright future is predicated on the likes of CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Jourdan Lewis, and S Xavier Woods.

With two young starters at cornerback, the sky truly is the limit the this Cowboys defense. And they’ll play in support of an offense with more than enough talent to return to form in 2018.

As it stands now under Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys defense is built to keep everything in front of them, and get bodies to the football. This coverage-friendly approach could be taken to new heights with Lewis and Awuzie on the outside, along with Anthony Brown finding a home in the slot. All three cornerbacks have excelled at using their speed, length, and technique to get their hands on passes.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 1

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Of course, games are won in the trenches, where the idea of the Cowboys defensive line ever rising to the level of their offensive line was laughable until recently. Whether it’s with the franchise tag or a long-term extension, sack-artist DeMarcus Lawrence looks to be an all-important member of this entire team moving forward.

A healthy Lawrence was a nightmare for opposing right tackles in 2017. He earned a national spotlight each week on his way to the quarterback 14-and-a-half times. Making it look easy at times, Lawrence is a refined rusher with the speed and power to win inside and out.

The RDE position remains a sore spot in need of talent as this Cowboys defense looks to take the next step, but there’s hope for the likes of Randy Gregory, Charles Tapper, and Taco Charlton to get the job done, along with veteran starter Tyrone Crawford.

With Crawford at RDE for much of 2017, running the ball against the Cowboys front was a tall order. His ability to capture the corner against left tackles came as a pleasant surprise to many, and once in position, the defensive captain chased down plenty of plays.

Tyrone Crawford wasn’t the only pleasant surprise on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line this season.

Rookie Taco Charlton looked like an entirely different player to close a first year in Dallas that began with completely uninspiring results. Charlton — having the physical traits to play at the next level — was never a question out of Michigan.

He may never be a player to take over games for a defense, which the Cowboys couldn’t have expected to find at DE selecting 28th overall, but an improved player at DE and DT could be an incredibly valuable asset for the Cowboys in 2018 and beyond.

This leaves the Cowboys linebacker corps, where we find the best example of young potential on the entire defense. Amazingly playing in all 16 games, LB Jaylon Smith is in line to take a massive step forward in year two.

Smith closed his season looking enticingly close to the player he was at Notre Dame, an encouraging sign as the Cowboys look to become less dependent on Sean Lee on this side of the ball.

Lee and Smith paired together would give the Cowboys a middle-of-the-field presence to rival the best in the league. Both players have exceptional range and awareness to run down plays from sideline to sideline.

Anthony Hitchens, an impending free agent, is another valuable piece at LB with his ready ability to play all three positions at a relatively high level.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 2

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

Stefon Diggs racing to the end zone with no time left to send the Vikings to the NFC Championship game will be the lasting image of this past Divisional Round weekend, an offensive play that will live on forever.

A closer look at these games and the teams that survived them reveals a collective trust in defenses, a trust the Cowboys could be blissfully close to with their own young defense.

The Cowboys are likely losing one of the smarter minds behind their defense in recent years, with Matt Eberflus ticketed for Josh McDaniel’s staff, and are still in need of a secondary coach after not retaining Joe Baker. In a league where better talent typically prevails though, the possibility of the Cowboys building a championship defense for next season and beyond may not be far off.

With defenses in Jacksonville and Philadelphia providing the hope that both teams can pull off the impossible and reach the Super Bowl on Sunday, will defensive potential be enough for Dallas to get through this long offseason and start the even longer path back to their first NFC Championship game in 21 seasons?

Tell us what you think about “Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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