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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
  • 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.

        • Brian Martin
  • 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…

      • Brian Martin
    • Brian Martin
  • 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

Should the Dallas Cowboys Trade for These 2 Oakland Raiders?

John Williams

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Should the Cowboys Make a Trade for These Oakland Raiders?

The trade deadline on October 30th will be here faster than we know. It's the final opportunity that NFL teams will have an opportunity to make a significant upgrade to their roster. And if you're a frequent reader of the Dallas Cowboys, then you know that the Dallas Cowboys could use some help, especially on the offensive side of the football.

On Thursday, Marcus Mosher from The Raiders Wire on USA Today posed a hypothetical trade involving the Dallas Cowboys. In his scenario, he has the Dallas Cowboys trading for Wide Receiver Amari Cooper and thinks that Cooper could net the Raiders a top 75 draft selection.

Amari Cooper is a good wide receiver, but he's not a receiver I would trade a top-75 pick for. Cooper is a player that has a lot of talent, but has struggled with drops and inconsistency. Even now, with the Raiders he's having a hard time getting consistent opportunities.

Cooper's second on the team in targets, but third on the team in receptions behind a tight end and a running back. Cooper's also third on the team in yardage behind the two guys that I'd be way more interested in trading for; Tight End Jared Cook and Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson.

Yes, these guys are on the wrong side of 30, but they are guys that have been around a long time and can help your offense this season. Both would be upgrades at the position, even at their advanced NFL age.

Jared Cook - Tight End

You've heard the adage, "if you can't beat em, join em." Well, this is the reverse of that. "If he always beats you, acquire him."

That's what Oakland Raiders Tight End Jared Cook is to the Dallas Cowboys. Point of evidence.

Game Winning Jared Cook Catch Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

Uploaded by Kafin Walker on 2017-01-16.

That remarkable catch by Jared Cook still haunts me and many of you in Cowboys Nation. It was a perfectly thrown ball by Aaron Rodgers and Cook made an incredible catch along the sidelines that led to Mason Crosby's game-winning field goal at the end of regulation.

Jared Cook's Oakland Raiders team isn't going anywhere this season. They're already four games back of the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs and the AFC is looking deeper than it has in recent years. The Raiders and the Indianapolis Colts are the only teams in the NFC with less than two losses. That means there are 14 teams with better records than Jon Gruden's Oakland squad. This week the Raiders face a Seattle Seahawks team that beat the Dallas Cowboys and lost by only a couple of points to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams.

Cook has been one of the better tight ends in the NFL this season and would be a veteran presence that the Dallas Cowboys could add if they felt like they could make a run at the playoffs.

At 31, Cook is averaging six catches and 78 yards receiving per game. He'd give the Dallas Cowboys someone they could run on post, corner, and seam routes to challenge safeties deep. Something that they're lacking from the tight end position at the moment. Cook is leading the Oakland Raiders in targets, receptions, yards, and is second on the Raiders in touchdowns in 2018.

No offense to Geoff Swaim, who's been surprisingly good this year, but Jared Cook makes this offense better. He allows you to make Rico Gathers your TE3, which would allow Rico to continue learning the game without the responsibility of being a primary target on certain pass plays.

Jared Cook is in the last season of his deal, so you wouldn't have to be committed to him beyond 2018. The perfect rental who could step in and play pretty quickly.

Jordy Nelson - Wide Receiver

I know this team is allergic to adding veteran players, especially veterans over 30, but Jordy Nelson is another name that they should take a long look at.

At 33 years of age, Nelson leads the Raiders in receiving touchdowns and is second on the team with 15.9 yards per reception. He's also third in receptions and second in yards.

His numbers -- 20 receptions for 317 yards and three touchdowns -- would lead the Dallas Cowboys in all receiving categories.

Nelson's still got some juice left and he's always been a good route runner with good hands.

Here are some highlights from Jordy's week three performance against the Miami Dolphins.

Jordy Nelson Can't Be Stopped w/ 173 Yards & 1 TD vs. Miami!

Check out Jordy Nelson highlights, racking up 173 yards receiving! The Oakland Raiders take on the Miami Dolphins during Week 3 of the 2018 NFL season. Subscribe to NFL: http://j.mp/1L0bVBu Check out our other channels: NFL Vault http://www.youtube.com/nflvault NFL Network http://www.youtube.com/nflnetwork NFL Films http://www.youtube.com/nflfilms NFL Rush http://www.youtube.com/nflrush #NFL #Raiders #JordyNelson

Nelson doesn't have any guarantees left on the deal he signed this past offseason so if you cut him in the 2019 offseason, you'd get zero dead money added to your 2019 salary cap, but would get $7.2 million in savings.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Because of their age and the fact that they'd likely be one-year rentals, I don't imagine that you'd have to give up much more than a fifth round pick for either of these guys. And while I don't think the Dallas Cowboys would take a look at trading for either veteran, it's something they should do if they have aspirations of making the playoffs in 2018.

The Dallas Cowboys offense could use a boost.

What's the most you'd be willing to offer for either Jordy Nelson or Jared Cook?

 



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Cowboys’ Issues Are Deeper Than The Division Race

Kevin Brady

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Are The Cowboys' Players Unhappy With Their Playbook?
Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News

Yesterday, Inside The Star staff writer Jess Haynie posed an interesting question: "could the wide-open NFC East help Jason Garrett's job security?"

The Dallas Cowboys started off their season a disappointing 2-3, but despite this rough start, they are right in the thick of things in the NFC East. The defending champion Eagles, who most expected to run away with the division, are now just 3-3. The lowly New York Giants are probably done at 1-5, and the Washington Redskins looked pathetic on Monday night, dropping to 2-2.

This division looks average at best, though I still somewhat expect the Eagles' talent to take over at some point and allow them to make a run. Still the Cowboys are alive, and if they can pull off the upset at home this Sunday, they may even be in first place come Monday morning.

So, Jess fairly asks, could this help Jason Garrett and the Cowboys' coaching staff keep their jobs? After all, it's rare you see an owner change coaches after remaining competitive within the division throughout most of the prior season. And given Jason Garrett's relationship with Jerry Jones, it might take an awful season to see any real change occur.

Here's the thing: this team could win the division at 9-7, and it would still be time for changes. Incompetence of others does not mean that you are competent, even if you are competent in comparison to those others.

The Cowboys have players openly questioning play calls, alluding to lack of trust in the quarterback, and pretty consistent drama swirling around the locker room. Yes, some of that is the media created Cowboy drama we always see, but there is disfunction within the organization without a doubt.

As a franchise the Cowboys need new blood in the building. To be honest, they could use a general manager separate from the Jones family name, but that is very unlikely to ever happen. So we focus on the coaching staff, specifically on the offensive side of the ball where the Cowboys have struggled the most.

Dallas is 29th in passing yards, 28th in passing yards per attempt, and tied for 26th in passing touchdowns through five weeks. Plainly put, they're horrible, and bringing back an offensive minded head coach and/or offensive coordinator who oversaw this terrible passing offense is counterproductive.

Regardless of where the Cowboys stand within this average division, they need to look themselves in the mirror this offseason. They need to be seriously comparing themselves to teams like the Rams (and not by lying to themselves like Jerry Jones did), not the 1-5 Giants.

The Cowboys should be striving for more than just being the best of a group of average football teams, and if that means cutting ties with Jason Garrett, then so be it.



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Opposition Outlook: Versatile T.J. Yeldon Too Much for Dallas Cowboys?

John Williams

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Opposition Outlook: TJ Yeldon Will be a Problem for the Dallas Cowboys

If you haven't heard the news yet, then let me be the first to tell you. Jacksonville Jaguars Running Back Leonard Fournette has been ruled out of this week's matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Jaguars. Don't let his absence fool you, though, T.J. Yeldon is a back that can hurt the Cowboys in many ways.

T.J. Yeldon was the Jaguars second round pick out of Alabama in the 2015 NFL Draft and was expected to be a featured back for them. That never really materialized and the Jaguars then went out and selected Fournette early in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Yeldon is now more of a passing game back for the AFC South contender, but with Fournette out, he's getting an opportunity in a full-time role. He's not at all the same back as Fournette, as Yeldon has much more ability in the passing game.

Already in 2018, Yeldon's caught 22 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns, which is more than any Dallas Cowboys wide receiver this season. T.J. Yeldon's averaging 8.8 yards per reception to go along with his 4.4 yards per carry on the season.

He's averaging 90 total yards per game on 16 touches and a touchdown a game. Even when Fournette was active in weeks one and four, Yeldon still received 17 and 21 touches in those games.

He's not at all an afterthought in the Jaguars offense and shouldn't be as the Dallas Cowboys defense prepares to stop them in week five.

Here's how he ranks among running backs with at least 24 targets:

  • Tied for second in receiving touchdowns.
  • 11th in receiving yards.
  • 14th in reception percentage.
  • Eighth in targets
  • 10th in receptions
  • Fourth in yards per reception
  • Seventh in yards after catch
  • Fifth in yards after catch per receptions.
  • Sixth in receptions that led to a first down.
  • Second in drops.
  • He has the 10th highest quarterback rating among running backs when targeted.

T.J. Yeldon isn't the best back in the NFL, but as a dual purpose back, he's really good. He's 15th in the NFL in total yards and for two of those games he was sharing the load with a former top five pick.

The Dallas Cowboys have been really good against the run this season. They've allowed the 11th fewest rushing yards and their 3.4 yards per carry allowed ranks tied for second in the NFL. Where they've struggled is with running backs in the passing game.

Through five weeks this season, they've allowed running backs to go for 47.6 yards per game. In weeks one, two, and five, they allowed 66 yards receiving to Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Alfred Blue.

If there's an area where the Jaguars can exploit the Dallas Cowboys defense, it will be in targeting T.J. Yeldon in the passing game. Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and (hopefully if he plays) Sean Lee will be enough to slow him down and make Blake Bortles take chances down the field.



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