The Dallas Cowboys second-year tight end Rico Gathers has without a doubt earned a spot on the final 53-man roster and has done so in a rather convincing matter. He has been more good than bad in his first two preseason appearances against the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams, proving he can be a weapon in the passing game. But, there still is the question of how should the Cowboys best utilize Gathers' unique skill set in 2017.
Probably the best thing Rico Gathers has shown throughout these first two preseason games is his consistency to show up in the passing game. Amazingly, he has averaged about 50 passing yards and one touchdown in these contests.
Against the Cardinals he caught four passes for 59 yards and a TD, then followed that up with another four catch, 47 yard, one TD performance against the Rams. It will be interesting if he can follow that up once again in the third preseason game this week against the Indianapolis Colts, which could be the Cowboys “dress rehearsal” game.
Rico Gathers possesses unique athletic ability for someone who is 6'7″ and 290 pounds. You don't see any TEs around the NFL that size who can move the way he does. In fact, his size would be more comparable to a defensive lineman or offensive tackle.
Gathers is without a doubt a matchup problem for anyone who is asked to cover him in the passing game. He is simply too big and strong for any linebacker, cornerback, or safety. But, not only is he too big and too strong, he has a speed to go along with it.
Of course, not everything has been sunshine and rainbows for Gathers in these first two preseason games. He still has a lot of things to work on before he can be relied upon as an every down player, but it's the positives that should get him on the field early and often in 2017.
I personally think that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will put in some specific packages on offense to get Rico Gathers involved in the passing game. That is where he can help the team the most and where he is the most dangerous.
If I was Linehan, I would use Gathers as a move tight end to take advantage of his physicality and speed. I would play him as both an out side receiver and in the slot to create mismatches against smaller DBs and LBs. He could also be lined up as an in-line TE, but that's where he really needs to develop the mental side of his game and blocking technique.
Rico Gathers is still arguably fourth on the depth chart at the TE position for the Cowboys, but he has also probably the more physically gifted. He's not ready too take on a full-time role just yet, but that doesn't mean he can't be a dangerous weapon this season.
I fully expect him to be involved on offense in some form or fashion this season and that should scare the living hell out of opposing defenses around the league.