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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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34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. oneputter

    January 16, 2018 at 8:55 am

    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

      Brian Martin

      January 16, 2018 at 9:46 am

      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

        January 16, 2018 at 1:33 pm

        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

          Brian Martin

          January 16, 2018 at 1:37 pm

          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

          January 17, 2018 at 10:36 am

          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.

        • Brian Martin

          Brian Martin

          April 25, 2018 at 9:29 pm

  2. Ervinlang318

    January 16, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    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

      Brian Martin

      January 16, 2018 at 4:54 pm

      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

        January 16, 2018 at 8:02 pm

        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

        January 17, 2018 at 11:52 am

        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…

      • Brian Martin

        Brian Martin

        April 25, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      April 25, 2018 at 9:29 pm

  3. Keith Jones

    January 17, 2018 at 8:26 am

    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

  4. dallas1966

    January 17, 2018 at 9:14 am

    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.

  5. Timothy Zackery

    January 17, 2018 at 10:31 am

    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.

  6. Roguewave1

    January 17, 2018 at 11:06 am

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

  7. Hector Espindola

    January 17, 2018 at 12:11 pm

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

  8. jason davis

    January 17, 2018 at 12:32 pm

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

  9. Russ_Te

    January 17, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    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.

  10. John Williams

    John Williams

    February 8, 2018 at 1:13 am

    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.

  11. Mr. Jaguar

    February 8, 2018 at 9:21 am

    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.

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Star Blog

Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?

Brian Martin

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Could Loaded FA Safety Class Drive Down Earl Thomas' Price Tag?

It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas share a mutual interest in one another. Thomas has publicly stated his desire to join America's Team and the Cowboys did their darndest to make that happen last offseason. Nothing ever materialized a year ago, but it's looking as if the stars have finally aligned and a union between the two could merely be just weeks away.

Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys may have dodged a bullet last year when the Seattle Seahawks refused to part ways with their All-Pro safety. Not only would they have had to surrender a high draft pick, but they would've also had to extend Thomas' contract. Fortunately, timing is everything and now the Cowboys might just have to do the latter.

A potential contract between the Cowboys and Thomas is of course what I want to dive in today. I'm not going to get into numbers right now, because it's nearly impossible to project any kind of contract for any safety this offseason, especially for the former Seahawk, Earl Thomas.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Right now, it's a little difficult to know who might have the advantage in contract negotiations, Earl Thomas or the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of times the one that has the leverage, however slight, is the one that gets the better of the deal. As surprising as it may be, the Cowboys might just have the advantage here and I'll tell you why.

First off, this year's market for free agent safeties is pretty stacked with starting caliber players. See below:

  • Earl Thomas
  • Landon Collins
  • Lamarcus Joyner
  • Tyrann Mathieu
  • Adrian Amos
  • Clayton Geathers
  • Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
  • Glover Quinn
  • Tre Boston
  • Kenny Vaccaro
  • George Iloka
  • Jimmie Ward
  • Adrian Phillips

Earl Thomas is obviously the headliner here amongst the free agent safeties, but having so many starting caliber players available could drive down Thomas' market value just a bit. This is especially true when you take into consideration the market for FA safeties just a year ago. It was almost a complete standstill last year, with only Kurt Coleman signing a three-year $16.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Not even the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu could get more than a one-year deal.

With all of these safeties available in free agency, we could be looking at another stingy market. This of course could be good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Earl Thomas. Since he is the top FA safety available, everything could once again be at a standstill until he is signed.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Of course, we all know this will ultimately come down to determining Earl Thomas' market value. There is no denying he is still arguably the best free safety in the game today, but there are concerns about his age (30) and the two lower leg injuries he's sustained in the past three years.

Even with the loaded free agent market of starting caliber safeties and Thomas' age and recent injury history, he's still likely to receive a contract that earns him $10 million annually, give or take. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets another four-year deal worth $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed, with a $9.5 million signing bonus like he signed with the Seahawks back in 2014.

The Cowboys of course would probably find a four-year $40 million deal for Earl Thomas acceptable. They would more than likely frontload the contract with a lot of protection in the details. They have the cap space to make this happen and still be able to sign their own, so money shouldn't be a problem.

Now, whether or not Thomas' market value may dip a little due to all of the above mentioned reasons will be something we will have to wait and find out. Regardless, I'd be a little shocked if Earl Thomas doesn't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Do you think Earl Thomas' market value will take a little hit this offseason?



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Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

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Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

What a difference a receiver makes, right? As Dallas fans, we know the impact of a player who can shake coverage, get open, and catch the ball. How was the season going before the Cowboys pulled the trigger for Amari Cooper in the deal with the Raiders? Cooper proved to be the lightning rod and a turning point in a season that was growing increasingly dismal. Dak Prescott and Cooper went together like peanut butter and jelly, while the Cowboys stormed to a division title and a postseason berth.

Now, imagine all of that times two… maybe even two and a half if Antonio Brown could be had from the Steelers. Scary right? We understand there’s only one ball to go around but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from joining the Warriors, did it?

As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks like Intertops, are dealing Dallas as the seventh of 16 choices to win the NFC championship at odds of 12-1. Imagine how those odds would shrink if Brown wore a Cowboys uniform next season, giving Prescott the luxury of not one upper echelon wideout but that plus an elite receiver. Hut, hut, hut and a few clouds of smoke later the Cowboys would be moving the chains or celebrating in the endzone.

Brown and Cooper would be a devastating combination with Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield. Brown was made for Dallas, it gives him an even grander stage than the one he shared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh.

Despite the fact that the 'Boys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer was roaming the sidelines in the mid-90s, America’s Team still resides in Dallas. But we need a game-changer and Brown is just such an athlete. But what do we give in return and will that cost be worth whatever productive years Brown has left after this one? Let’s not forget that the mercurial Miami native will be 31 when the season begins and men who make a living with their legs don’t get better at that age. But Brown is so good and so unique that, even if he drops half a click, he's still amongst the best in the game.

That level of talent is hard to replicate and it could be the missing piece which allows Dallas to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and the year after.

However, up to this point, we’ve been very good at dreaming of a Brown to Dallas trade but haven’t quite worked out the details. It takes two to tango and if we expect to get the Steelers’ attention we need to give them something valuable in return. Dallas surrendered their first-round pick (27th) this season when they traded for Cooper so that’s no longer an asset.

Pittsburgh would be vying for a first-round pick (and likely more) for Brown's services but some have speculated Dallas would consider dealing rookie-standout Leighton Vander Esch.

Wait... what? We know, you’re clutching your pearls, and the words are stuck in your gasp. We get it. The kid was a home run this past season, leading the Dallas defense in tackles and earning a Pro Bowl invitation in his inaugural NFL season. But this would be a Faustian deal.

The Cowboys give up a player who is poised to be a stud for years to come for a playmaker in Brown that could render a Super Bowl in the immediate future. Brown's expiration date will surely turn his milk sour sooner rather than later, but in the here and now, Antonio Brown could be the bell cow who leads the Cowboys to the promised land before he’s put out to pasture.

Just something to think about...



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Star Blog

2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back

Kevin Brady

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Anthony Brown's Resurgence A Great Sign for Cowboys Defense
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.

As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.

Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.

These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.

Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.

Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.

Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.

Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.



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