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Can Rico Gathers Make Cowboys Offense More “Dak-Friendly”?

Brian Martin

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Rico Gathers, Rams

The Dallas Cowboys unfortunately face all kinds of questions heading into the 2018 offseason. Right now, there are no answers to those questions, which means we'll just have to sit back and take a wait-and-see approach. But, one question that absolutely has to be answered is how to make the Cowboys offense more Dak Prescott friendly.

Offensively, the Dallas Cowboys had an extremely disappointing year in 2017. Suspensions and injuries are the main culprits for the disappointment, but the Dallas Cowboys haven't really changed things much in the scheme or personnel to help Dak Prescott succeed.

The sad truth is, the Dallas Cowboys are still operating as if Tony Romo is the starting quarterback. It's pretty much the same personnel and scheme, but it really doesn't suit Prescott.

It's time for that to change. Unfortunately, this isn't something that will happen overnight.

The Cowboys spent years putting together the personnel to help Romo. Just when they thought they had the missing piece -- by drafting Ezekiel Elliott, Romo sustained a back injury, pretty much ending his career.

Anyway you look at it, the offensive personnel needs to improve in order to make this team more "Dak-friendly".

Enter Tight End Rico Gathers.

Rico Gathers

Dallas Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

The Dallas Cowboys have invested two years in Rico Gathers' development, but with the exception of a few flashes in preseason, they haven't benefited from the fruits of their labor. The 2018 season should be Gathers' coming-out party.

We all witnessed what the Cowboys offense looks like when they are forced to rely on the passing game. Dak Prescott struggled to find any kind of consistency throwing the ball -- with the options he had at his disposal in 2017 -- while Ezekiel Elliott served a six-game suspension.

Defenses decided to take Prescott's favorite target out of the equation by bracketing Cole Beasley in coverage. Then, they also devoted extra attention Dez Bryant's way, making it difficult to get him the ball.

The only other option left really was Jason Witten on simple check downs.

And that is what the future Hall of Famer has been reduced to.

Jason Witten is no longer the threat he once was. Yes, he is still a reliable target, but his age is starting to catch up to him, which has unfortunately robbed him of some of his athleticism. We will no longer see Witten stretch the field down the seam, or run many routes further than 10 yards.

That's why I think Rico Gathers could be a difference maker in 2018, especially for Dak Prescott.

Prescott needs more than an outlet receiver at the TE position. No offense to Jason Witten, but that's pretty much what he has become at this point in his career.

Rico Gathers on the other hand is not only different from Witten, but also provides a different skill set than any other TE on the Cowboys roster. He's a big target with athleticism, who cannot only move the chains, but stretch the field and break tackles in the open field.

Gathers' sheer size alone creates mismatch problems against smaller defensive backs and linebackers, but his athleticism should allow him to create separation, something which fits into what Prescott needs from his receivers.

There is no reason why the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff can't find a way to incorporate Rico Gathers' unique skill set into the offense. They may not truly trust him to be an every down player, but that's not happening anyway, not with Jason Witten on the roster.

If it was me, I would have a few packages in the playbook specifically designed for Gathers. I not only think this will help him grow as a player, but help the Cowboys offense become more "Dak-friendly".

Can Rico Gathers make the Cowboys offense more "Dak-friendly"?


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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18 Comments
  • oneputter

    well we would certainly hope so, problem is when will we see him?

    cowboys are too loyal to a fault to some of their marquee/veteran players. IMO, witten should have stepped aside last year or been reduced to a limited role as a 3rd TE. we should have used swaim more as a passing threat, as well as hanna and/or jarwin (although i am not sure about jarwin as a passing threat since he was more of a hybrid blocker at OSU).

    we should consider a TE in this draft, there are plenty of good ones.

    • Brian Martin

      I agree. I think Witten should start splitting reps with a younger/more athletic TE. Whether that is Rico Gathers or someone they draft is the question. But, like you said they’re loyal to their veteran players. We will just have to wait and see.

      • Michael White

        My question with the loyalty thing is why? What have we won? Witten should have been reduced to the #3. No disrespect to him, but consider the other players mindset when it’s already been decided who the starter is going to be. And it’s been 2 years. Its time to see what he got. You can’t continue to say he isn’t ready…i understand the concussion…but now it’s time to show and prove…Dallas has had some good tight ends that have left and produced in other places..it’s time for the coaching staff to coach these guys up and produce

        • Brian Martin

          Unfortunately it’s just hard to move on from those kind of players. It’s going to happen sooner or later, it’s just a matter of whether or not it’s going to be a coaching decision or Jason Witten’s. Somebody is going to have to make the tough choice though.

        • Timothy Zackery

          Only question i have had is could the other tight end gotten open. Bcause i truly think if they showed that in practice they probably would have us them more. I think Rico Gather is our only hope out those tight ends. They good enough to have around but we should draft one too.

  • Ervinlang318

    Its very Selfish on Witten’s part to not help his team out and take a step back and only be in on Red Zone Packages

    • Brian Martin

      I think selfish is the wrong word. Jason Witten is a competitor and he knows he’s the Cowboys best option at TE right now. He’s not going to want to come off the field for someone who he believes is inferior. This is ultimately going to be a coaching decision. But, until they find somebody that can start cutting into his playing time Witten will continue to receive the bulk of the workload. Maybe Gathers is the answer or an unknown draft pick. We will just have to wait and find out.

      • EverybodyTalks

        I agree that selfish is the wrong word. The other active TEs are not as good as Witten. He still knows how to get open. The problem is YAC. Rico could solve that part while continuing to ;learn from the future HOF.

      • Michael White

        I agree with your assessment of his competitive nature…but he grew into becoming a great tight end..and that came with reps…somehow they need to get some reps for Rico…if you’re waiting on him to become Jason Witten 2.0. Its not going to happen. Find out his strengths and weaknesses coach him up but let him play..film and practice reps are totally different than game time reps…

  • Keith Jones

    He could be a major threat in the middle of the field imagine pick or chose your poison that will kill you either death by Zeke running the ball down your throat or ( Zeus ) Rico Gathers learn from Witten roaming the middle of the defense like a bigger Gronk but a much better athlete and can you believe bigger in size or a young top notch number one threat on the perimeter occupying the defense number one cornerback or two defenders and last one of two number 2 receivers that can take the top off at any given time of the game not to mention switzer capabilities in this offense the skies the limit

  • dallas1966

    It’s up to a stale Cowboys coaching staff, that are afraid to topple the Apple court, meaning des bryant, jason witten, and cole beasley , done of these receiver can separate.

    With a Dak Attack friendly offense, the Romo friendly offense wide receiver will not be a fit, due their in- ability to separate. In order for the Dak Attack friendly offense to be successful, Dak Attack will need speed.

    Romo was at the stage of his career, where speed wasn’t essential at the wide receiver position.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the assessment of this article.

  • Timothy Zackery

    Only if he can get his butt on the field. Once he on the field in they get to comfortable spot and trust then yes he probably could do just for Dak and the intire offense as that goes. If he come in and make plays the open the run game better for Zeke, in which will open up the passing game for Dak and the receivers. That what make a team go from good to great. Well all ready good but we need to get back to being great again. But for all of that too work we got to fix the offensive line. Got to have someone ready to step in when Tyron Smith is injured, that players got to be good at his job not just average player that don’t work in the nfl. Maybe the blocking changes coming with the new oline will help Chaz Green and the other lineman. Not seeing that Byron Bell will be back. Get someone in free agency plus draft no later then third round.

  • Roguewave1

    We have seen that Gathers can move and catch, but is he now a football player who can block?

  • Hector Espindola

    Time to see Rico as the main TE, while Witten plays as a blocking TE.

  • jason davis

    This dude is making songs saying F that B , his priorities arent the cowboys we should move on IMO

  • Russ_Te

    The 2 big offensive problems last year IMO were no depth at OT, and a poor receiving corps that wasn’t getting open often enough. Schemes aggravated both, and Dak had an NFL learning year about how to play with less protection & less run support.

    So the ‘Boys fan wants a better product in all those ways. In which receivers churn is essential. I will deal Beasley for fair value, because I think I can get Switzer to a similar level as a route runner and he has more speed for RAC. Deal Williams, keep Butler. Get an impact WR up the draft, or at least a project guy with speed down the draft. Now you have a different unit, and Dez can work as a power possession receiver underneath guys who stretch the coverages.

    If Gathers is ready to make plays – 2 to 1 he is IMO – then I will take a development curve on his routes and his blocking. He could be a missing link for Dak.

  • John Williams

    Man I hope so, but I wonder if he’ll even make the roster. Witten’s still around and Hanna, Swaim, and Jarwin are going to be competing for roster spots.

    His athleticism would certainly help, but will they give him the opportunity to play.

  • Mr. Jaguar

    Great article. Absolutely. With a new TE Coach coming aboard. It’ll be a clean slate which I think will work in Gathers favor. I dont think the previous coaches trusted Gathers with the Romo friendly offense..
    With the emphasis on speed to create separation to making the offense more Dak Friendly will benefit Rico, with a new start will be able to utilize his 2 years experience in demonstrating the athelictisim at the TE position, to expand the football field for Dak Attack to be effective. It’s still sky’s the limit for Rico. I won’t be surprised if he becomes the staple for the TE position like Gonk for the Patriots. The next Billy Joe Dupree.

Star Blog

Could a Former Division Rival be Cowboys’ LG Solution?

Brian Martin

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Could Former Division Rival be Cowboys' OG Solution?

When it comes to prioritizing the Dallas Cowboys offseason needs, offensive guard is definitely near the top of the list. Opinions will certainly vary, but for me, solidifying the offensive line with a new starting left guard is the top priority for the Cowboys.

I know many of you will disagree and believe the Dallas Cowboys need to continue to upgrade their defense. But, this teams success or failure will be determined by how their offensive line performs. That's just the way the Cowboys are built, which is why they have invested so heavily putting this unit together.

Four out of five of the Dallas Cowboys starting offensive line is set in stone, but there is currently no one on the roster to step into the vacant left guard position unless you want to see the coaching staff give Chaz Green another try.

No, I didn't think so.

With the start of the 2018 free agency just a few weeks away, the Dallas Cowboys have certainly narrowed down some of the potential free agents they would be interested in bringing aboard if the price is right. Remember, they have turned into "bargain shoppers".

There are a few intriguing free agent options who I believe could step in to upgrade the LG position for the Cowboys next season, and not break the bank. One such option is a former division rival of the New York Giants, Justin Pugh.

Justin Pugh

New York Giants OL Justin Pugh

The former 19th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft has spent five years in New York while playing out his rookie contract, but that time has come to an end. The Giants aren't likely to re-sign him, which means he will get his first taste of free agency.

Justin Pugh could step in and be an immediate upgrade over what the Dallas Cowboys employed at the left guard position in 2017. He has exceptional mobility. He reaches the second level with ease and plays with good body control and footwork. He is a perfect fit in a zone blocking scheme like the Cowboys employ.

Pugh is also versatile. He has played both right tackle and offensive guard for the Giants. He of course would be asked to play between Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith at LG with the Cowboys, but versatility to play another position is never a bad thing.

Unfortunately, Pugh doesn't come without baggage. He has missed a total of 13 games over the last two seasons with the Giants, including eight last season due to a back injury. This is definitely a huge red flag, especially for the Cowboys after dealing with the same issue with Tyron Smith.

But, this is why Justin Pugh will likely be in the Cowboys price range. Sportrac currently estimates his contract at 4 years at $23,983,847, which equates to $5,995,968 annually. I personally think that's a little low for someone of Pugh's caliber and versatility, but it certainly understandable when you take into account his recent injury history.

I personally think this is a longshot to happen because  the Cowboys would prefer to go younger and cheaper, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Do you think Justin Pugh makes sense for the Cowboys?


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Star Blog

Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition
Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Sadly, we can't wake up on Sundays to NFL football. The Dallas Cowboys are not on TV every week for us to watch them play. To make matters worse, we'll have to wait until September to get real football from our favorite team.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing to talk about until then! For the die-hard Cowboys fan, the offseason should be quite entertaining. Free agency will begin in March, and it should be an intense one for Dallas.

They need to handle a tight salary cap while trying to add a bit of help for this football team. Recently, Inside The Star Contributor John Williams wrote an in-depth piece about the Cowboys' cap situation and how they can manage to get things done, despite having little cap space right now.

Last season, I wrote a weekly Cowboys Wishlist about things I wanted to see for each game. Now there are no games, but I decided to write a special edition for this upcoming free agency.

Cowboys en Español: El Futuro de David Irving y DeMarcus Lawrence

Dallas Cowboys DL David Irving, DeMarcus Lawrence (Kevin Jairaj / USA TODAY Sports)

Wish #1: Keep The Rushmen

The front office will have one hell of a challenge trying to retain all of its free agents. The two most important ones may be their two defensive linemen. If they can keep them, DL won't be a top need heading to the Draft.

Lawrence is one of the biggest names in free agency this 2018, but the Cowboys should find a way to keep him from ever being available.

If they're able to franchise tag him, that'd be the way to go since he's only had one elite season in his four-year career and they may not want to sign him to a huge long-term deal and risk not seeing the same guy next season.

David Irving is a more polarizing player, with off-the-field issues. However, he's been a very disruptive guy and he has the chance to be a unique player. His talent is really out of this world. Keeping him and Irving would give this franchise a top defensive line for the first time in many years.

Anthony Hitchens 1

Dallas Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Wish #2: Pay Anthony Hitchens

When healthy, Sean Lee is one of the NFL's top linebackers. He is simply an outstanding player who's always around the ball and seems to know where the ball is going before the opposing coach even calls the play.

The problem is, he has a lot of trouble remaining available. Anthony Hitchens is a guy who's found the way to step up every time the General is out, and he's shown a great progression as a player year after year.

Lee will be 32 by the time the season starts, giving Dallas something to think about. Hitchens is a guy capable of starting and competing in the NFL. If the front office finds a way to keep him, they'll be getting closer to being less "Sean Lee-dependent."

Wish #3: Get Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas

When we talk about a potential big name addition to the Dallas Cowboys, we're usually a bit pessimistic. This team isn't one that makes splashes like this, but Earl Thomas to Dallas makes a ton of sense. Former Seahawks' defensive coordinator is now the Cowboys' defensive backs' coach.

With Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis (and maybe Byron Jones moving to CB), this team will have a promising secondary. Add Earl Thomas, and it will go from "promising" to "great" in a heartbeat.

The Cowboys could not only have a top DL, but a top secondary if they're able to get this veteran.

Let's hope the Cowboys listen to Thomas and they go get him.

A Case For Dez Bryant Remaining a Dallas Cowboy in 2018

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Wish #4: Get Dez Bryant to Take a Pay Cut

When I started writing this, I wanted to add a "get this wide receiver in FA"... but I won't. A few weeks ago, I wrote a case in favor and one against Dez Bryant remaining a Cowboy in 2018. Personally, I would be fine with him parting ways with the team.

However, I'm aware of how hard it can be finding a replacement for a guy like #88. The biggest issue with Dez is definitely his cap hit. He hasn't justified the money he's being paid on the field as he should be.

If they can get him to take a pay cut, it may end up being the ideal scenario for the Dallas Cowboys.

It'll be a very interesting offseason, and here at Inside The Star we'll continue to provide you with content about it all.

Tell me what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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Star Blog

Switzer and Beasley: A Dilemma for Cowboys’ 2018 Offseason

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Switzer and Beasley: A Dilemma for Cowboys' 2018 Offseason

When the Dallas Cowboys drafted Ryan Switzer in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Cowboys Nation rejoiced. By some, including myself, the product out of North Carolina was considered a steal by America's Team. Taking a guy who could contribute from day one for special teams and for the offense was something to be happy about.

At the time, WR didn't look like much of a need. Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley were staying in Dallas and Terrance Williams had just been re-signed (little did we know he'd fail to score a single touchdown in 2017) pushing the receiver position down the team needs list.

But the front office had landed a very productive slot receiver from North Carolina. On top of that, they found a guy to replace Lucky Whitehead as a return specialist. However, offseason hype took over a large amount of Cowboys' fans, writers and analysts and the expectations for Switzer were very big.

Will Ryan Switzer see an Increased Offensive Role in 2018?

Dallas Cowboys WR Ryan Switzer

Naturally, he was compared to Cole Beasley since people started talking about him as an NFL prospect. His height, skills and playing style were similar and with the Cowboy veteran coming off from a big year in 2016, people were excited for what Switzer could do as a professional football player.

But it wasn't just about the rookie returning punts and kickoffs, it was about him contributing to an offense that already had a great slot receiver. Cowboys Nation was excited to see Switzer and Beasley on the field at the same time.

That never happened.

Switzer barely saw playing time in 2017 and when he was on the field as a WR, he was limited to running or faking jet sweeps. The coaching staff misused him and we didn't get to see him get a lot of snaps until the final week of the season, when #11 was injured.

And it was that same week when we saw what he was capable of. Switz showed how talented he is and how he can beat NFL defensive backs when he was asked to do so.

Cowboys Offense: More Hot Sauce Needed From Cole Beasley 3

Dallas Cowboys WR Cole Beasley (Matthew Emmons / USA TODAY)

With a busy offseason and a tight salary cap, the Dallas Cowboys' front office will be considering a lot of possibilities. One of them will be the future of Cole Beasley. Releasing him would free up more than $3M in cap space.

I know a large amount of Cowboys' fans prefer to see Dez Bryant gone over him, but we can't deny that there's already a clear replacement for Beasley in Switzer.

The Cowboys wanted Switzer to be a returner and a receiver for them, but if they're going to use him just as a gadget player on offense... was the fourth-round pick worth it? If you're not going to use one of them, why have two players who are very similar on your roster?

Cowboys Nation loves Cole Beasley, as they should. I for one wouldn't want to see #11 on another team. Even still, it's only fair to admit that it would make sense for Dallas if they were to say goodbye to one of their most beloved players.

Tell me what you think about "Switzer and Beasley: A Dilemma for Cowboys’ 2018 Offseason" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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