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

Brian Martin



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.

  • 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’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 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

Sean’s Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Cowboys D

Sean Martin



Sean's Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Dallas Cowboys Defense 1

It took some time, but the Dallas Cowboys have their first outside free agent of the offseason, signing Linebacker Joe Thomas to provide depth at a position where Anthony Hitchens and Kyle Wilber have already signed elsewhere.

The fifth-year pro has played exclusively with the Green Bay Packers, but the Cowboys do have some familiarity with Thomas as he spent part of 2015 on their practice squad.

Joe Thomas has served as a core special teams contributor and sub-package LB for the Packers out of South Carolina State, and will now look to bring these services to a Cowboys team in need of play making ability on both defense and special teams.

Using film from this past season, here is Joe Thomas' full scouting report.

LB Joe Thomas: Strengths

Thomas1 - Streamable

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Joe Thomas lined up at all three LB positions for the Packers, taking the majority of his snaps on defense at MIKE or WILL. The WILL position is where Thomas should fit best in Dallas.

Not overly physical with a shorter but square frame, Thomas is a rangy player with light feet and fluid movement ability. Shifting laterally along the line of scrimmage to "pick through trash" is not a problem for Thomas, nor is flipping his hips and running to the football.

It may take Thomas more effort than it should to get in position on most plays, with false steps and late reads being an issue, but once he establishes his sight on the point of attack this is a downhill missile of a player.

Thomas2 - Streamable

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Joe Thomas uses his length well to disengage from blocks and finish off plays, doing a nice job of not allowing blockers into his chest consistently.

With Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith expected to be the Cowboys' primary starters at WILL and MIKE respectively, Thomas could supplement these two physical, well-rounded players extremely well given his athleticism.

LB Joe Thomas: Weaknesses

Thomas3 - Streamable

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There is a reason a player with the raw traits of Joe Thomas goes un-drafted, and in this case it is because of awareness and anticipation issues in Thomas' game.

Far too often on tape, Thomas is forcing himself to recover from false steps against the blockers in front of him. I would have loved to see a player with this movement ability get more clean opportunities to finish at the football, but it was simply not there for Thomas.

When Thomas wasn't late to the ball against the run, he was getting caught flat-footed in space trying to compensate for this reactionary ability. This led to Thomas' fair share of missed tackles, where the LB failed to break down correctly.

Overall, Thomas did a decent job of avoiding blocks and disengaging, and does play with better-than-expected stopping power. The strength and technique to shed blocks was rarely seen though, relying on his quickness to outrun opponents to the spot.

LB Joe Thomas: Summary

Sean's Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Dallas Cowboys Defense

This is a player that should help the Dallas Cowboys in two phases of their game this season.

Signed for both 2018 and 2019, the Cowboys have clearly seen enough from their former practice squad linebacker in Green Bay to bring back an athletic ST ace with upside on defense.

Joe Thomas shouldn't be taking Lee or Smith off the field regularly this season, but at his best he will factor into Rod Marinelli's defense on passing downs.

Thomas gives a unit predicated on flowing to the ball even more speed on the field, and is an ideal depth signing with the versatility to cover punts and kickoffs.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Cowboys D" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Star Blog

Could a Special Coach Help Dez Bryant’s Route-Running?

Brian Martin



Could Special Coach Help Dez Bryant's Route Running?

Dez Bryant's career with the Dallas Cowboys may be in limbo, but that's not stopping him from trying to improve his game and on-field performance.

Bryant will reportedly train with personal wide receivers coach David Robinson, who specializes in route-running, according to reporter Jane Slater of NFL Network. This should come as good news to a lot of Cowboys fans, because Dez Bryant has often been criticized throughout his professional career for his route-running.

If anything, this news should indicate that Dez Bryant is more determined than ever to rebound from his disappointing 2017 season and prove his critics wrong that he is no longer one of the top receivers in the league. I for one am not going to bet against him.

Bryant's work ethic and passion for the game have never been questioned. His desire to be the best is evident anytime you turn on his film, whether it is in a game situation or on the practice field. He takes the "practice like you play" mantra to heart.

Everybody should be encouraged that at this point in his career, Dez Bryant is still looking at ways to improve his game and seek help. Hopefully, working with a well-known receivers coach like David Robinson can take Bryant's game to the next level.

Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (AP Photo/Matt Strasen)

You may not know who David Robinson is (I certainly didn't), but he is well respected around the league and has helped other receivers under his tutelage. Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jordan Reed, and even Cowboys former WR Brice Butler have all benefited from Robinson's coaching.

Dez Bryant has always been regarded as one of those types of receivers who is always open regardless how tight the coverage is around him. His ability to go up and snag the ball out of the air is arguably his best trait, but he could become more dangerous if he can create separation on his own with better route-running.

Unfortunately, Bryant is entering the stage in his career where age becomes a factor and some regression is to be expected. This is why improved route-running could improve any deficiencies Bryant maybe dealing with.

But, what exactly will David Robinson be working on with Dez Bryant?

Robinson told Jane Slater that in his workouts with Dez Bryant, he will concentrate on the expansion of Bryant's route tree, shaking defenders at the line of scrimmage, and improving footwork technique to compensate for any natural loss of speed due to age.

I don't know about you, but I'm actually looking forward to seeing how Bryant responds to Robinson's coaching, hopefully still as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

We all know that Bryant's status with the Cowboys is unknown, at least to those of us on the outside looking in, but I don't see him going anywhere in 2018. There just aren't any vet WRs or rookies who I can see replacing his production. Of course, I could be wrong.

One thing is for sure though, Dez Bryant isn't going to sit on his hands while he waits to find out what his future holds.

Do you think improved route-running will help Dez Bryant's game?

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Star Blog

Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Brian Martin



Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Since becoming the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Rod Marinelli hasn't had too many of his former players follow him to Dallas. In fact, I can only think of one… Henry Melton, and we all know how that turned out.

I don't know about you, but I found that a little strange. It's pretty common for coaches to try to bring some of their players with them when they accept a new job. Familiarity goes a long way in the NFL and former players can also help make the transition easier for everyone.

Strangely enough, Rod Marinelli hasn't really been afforded that luxury, whether it was his doing or not. But, there is a free agent who played under Marinelli's tutelage in Chicago who might make sense for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Shea McClellin.

Rod Marinelli was the defensive coordinator in Chicago when the Bears decided to draft Shea McClellin 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Marinelli likely had a big say in that decision, and if he still feels the same, a reunion could be in order.

Shea McClellin started his career in the NFL as a 4-3 left side defensive end playing opposite Julius Peppers, but was also viewed as a potential Brian Urlacher replacement. He showed flashes of becoming a solid defensive end his first few years in the league, but was eventually moved to linebacker, where he seemed to find a home for himself.

Shea McClellin

New England Patriots LB Shea McClellin

After his contract expired with the Bears, the New England Patriots decided to bring him aboard to help with their linebacker depth. He only ended up starting four games for them in 2016, but made some memorable plays to help the Patriots become the Super Bowl champions.

Unfortunately, the 2017 season wasn't very kind to him. His entire year was wiped out due to a concussion, which probably had a lot to do with why they recently released him.

This of course could be good news for the Dallas Cowboys. They currently need some depth at the linebacker position and Shea McClellin could provide that, if he's healthy. The healthy bit here is key, because he has had problems with concussions in the past.

If McClellin is indeed healthy, he could bring a versatile skill set to the Cowboys defense. His best spot is probably at strong side LB (SAM), but I think he could play middle linebacker (MIKE) as well. He also could provide depth at defensive end, the position he played to start his NFL career.

With the LB depth a concern, Shea McClellin makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, his past history with concussions is a red flag, but it also drives down his asking price. I think he would definitely fall into that "bargain shopping" mentality the Cowboys have been using these last few offseasons.

He probably wouldn't be viewed as a very important signing, but you still need these types of players on your team in order to succeed in the NFL. Let's see if the Dallas Cowboys agree.

Do you think a Rod Marinelli and Shea McClellin reunion is in order?

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