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Should Cowboys’ Fans Buy Into The Rico Gathers Hype?

Brian Martin

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Cowboys' Fans, Time To Tap The Breaks On The Rico Gathers Hype

The Dallas Cowboys haven’t even made it into training camp or put on pads yet, but all eyes are already fixated on second-year tight end Rico Gathers as a potential breakout player in 2017. Justifiable or not, that’s just the way things go in the off-season. But, it might be wise for Cowboys’ fans to tap the brakes on the expectations they might have for Gathers this season.

It may sound a little harsh, but Rico Gathers still has quite a ways to go in his development before he can be relied upon. He is still transitioning from a college basketball star into a football player. There are quite a few things that go into the transition process, and unfortunately it can’t be rushed.

The Dallas Cowboys decided to draft Gathers in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft as a developmental project. The key word here being “project”. That is what #80 is, and the sooner we realize that the better.

Upon the completion of his collegiate basketball career, Rico Gathers decided to turn his attention to the gridiron and become a professional football player, despite not playing the game since he was 13 years old. So, you can imagine there are not only a lot of X’s and O’s he has to learn and catch up on, but he also has to transform his body from that of a basketball player into a football player.

Gathers has been in the system for an entire year and has been putting in the work in the strength and conditioning program to prepare his body for the upcoming season. He also had the added benefit of working with the recently retired Tony Romo on the practice squad. That alone was probably invaluable to his development, but that was in practice, not actual games.

You see, a lot of the hype surrounding Rico Gathers is because of the work he was able to get in with Romo on the practice squad. Word is the duo was virtually unstoppable against the Cowboys first team defense, which has a lot of us excited about Gathers potential, myself included. But, running scripted plays that allowed him to know exactly what to do is far different than what he would have to do in an actual game.

Rico GathersThat’s the reason I’m preaching caution here, because all of the nuances of the game he still has to learn. We really don’t know how much of a grasp he has on the playbook or if he knows all of his assignments based on what the opposing defense is showing. This is something will have to wait until training camp to find out.

The Dallas Cowboys ask quite a bit of their tight ends, which makes it one of the more difficult positions to learn. They have several responsibilities in both the running and passing game, which is mostly predicated on being able to read defensive coverages in a split second.

These are the areas of greatest concern for Gathers’ development. Of course, he also has to work on his blocking technique and route running, but that’s the physical side of the game that comes easier with proper coaching. It’s really the mental aspects holding Gathers back, because the physical traits are definitely there.

At 6’7″ and 281 pounds, Rico Gathers has rare size and athletic ability, especially for a tight end. That is why it is easy to imagine what he could possibly turn into and do on the football field.

As things stand right now, he is the #2 tight end behind Jason Witten when training camp gets underway, while Geoff Swaim and James Hanna continue to recover from their injuries. So, he will have the opportunity to prove himself. The ball is in his court (pun intended).

I’m personally still going to err on the side of caution when it comes to how much he will be able to contribute in 2017, because I think he still has quite a ways to go in his development. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not rooting for the guy.

Rico Gathers just has that kind of story you want to root for. It’s not easy to transition from one sport to another, especially when he hasn’t played the sport he’s transitioning into since he was 13. But, I’m sure we are all hoping he has a storybook ending. Right?

Are you already buying into the Rico Gathers hype?

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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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14 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    You almost find yourself having to believe in the hype seeing how there’s been no production outside of Gold Jacket Wit at the TE position for years After letting Marcellus Bennet go we been bringing in A new TE every year and none have been productive Witten can’t play forever

    • Brian Martin

      Travis, I agree they need to find Jason Witten’s successor, but pinning our hopes on a player making the transition from basketball to football is a longshot. I’m hoping Gathers pans out, but I don’t think we should expect too much from him this season. I think he still has quite a ways to go in his development.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DallasCowboyBooksBlog fgoodwin

    After twenty years of playoff failure, hype is all Cowboy fans have left. We gotta hang our hat on something, right? After all, “this is our year” (for the fifth or sixth straight year)!

    • Brian Martin

      I just thought it was still a little premature to start hyping up a player this early in the off-season before pads of even come on. Everybody looks good in shorts and a helmet.

  • dallas1966

    Brian, I’m drinking the kool-aid. The next Billy Joe Dupree

    • http://dvqp.ru BeirutWedding

      Me too. To hell with it.

      • Brian Martin

        There’s certainly no harm in it.

    • Brian Martin

      I really want to, but I would like to see more evidence before anointing him as Jason Witten’s successor.

  • Chris Veira

    Well I like the story right up until you said “running scripted plays that allowed him to know exactly what to do”. That is called offense! See you run “scripted” plays and the good ones play fast because they know “exactly what to do”! In practice a coach teaches you to “practice like you play”, with the only difference being the tackling to the ground. So if he is hard to stop now and he can play on the big stage we could have another pro bowl TE on our hands.

    • Brian Martin

      Yes, but the scripted plays he’s running is of another team’s offense on the scout team. In the Cowboys offense he has to make route adjustments, blocking assignments, and blitz pickups he has to identify all pre-snap. Plus, he still has to develop his technique and become a better route runner. I still think he probably needs another year at the very least to work on his craft. I wouldn’t expect much from him this year, but they could put in some specific packages just for him to simplify things.

  • Kevin Black

    You can try and slow down the hype, but if Gathers isn’t on the 53, he will be poached by another team, so for Dallas fans, it’s making the 53 or bust.

    • Brian Martin

      I think he makes the 53 man roster because of that reason. Some other team will take a chance on him, but I don’t expect him to contribute very much in 2017. At most, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan might have some specific packages with Gathers in mind. That why it kind of simplifies things for him until he has full grasp of his responsibilities.

      • Kevin Black

        I agree completely as of today. I reserve the right to change my mind once training camp starts and we see how well he blocks. If his blocking is up to par, I could see him become the defacto number 2 TE while they explore ways to exploit his athleticism. His blocking though will determine his playing time.

        • Brian Martin

          I really liked what I saw from Geoff Swaim last season when he was healthy. I have a hard time believing Gathers is ready to outplay him right now. But, training camp will help determine where Gathers is at in his development, especially with Swaim and Hanna still out recovering from their injury.

Star Blog

Will Terrance Williams be Back with Cowboys in 2018?

Brian Martin

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Will Terrance Williams be Back with Cowboys in 2018?

Each offseason tough decisions have to be made by teams around the NFL, and the Dallas Cowboys are no exception. Teams have to decide who to promote, who to demote, and who to cut ties with altogether. For the Cowboys, Terrance Williams fits into one of those three categories, but which one?

It was plainly obvious that the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers all had an extremely disappointing 2017 season.

Everybody has their own opinion as to why this happened, but one thing is for sure, the Cowboys coaching staff will definitely look at ways to get more out of their receiving core. The one player who I think could be affected most by whatever decision the coaching staff ends up making is Terrance Williams.

Williams didn’t do much to make a case for keeping his starting job in 2017, let alone sticking on the roster.

To say he had a disappointing season would be an understatement.

Williams finished the 2017 season with just 53 receptions for 568 receiving yards and absolutely zero touchdowns. The Cowboys were likely hoping for more production from someone they just signed to a four-year, $17-million contract extension back in March [2017].

Now, you can make the argument Williams took a team discount in order to stay in Dallas, but that doesn’t carry much weight when your production leaves so much to be desired. This is especially true when there might be somebody on the roster who can do just as well, and possibly be an upgrade.

Noah Brown

Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Yes, if you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m talking about Noah Brown.

I know I’m not alone here, but I think Noah Brown could easily replace Terrance Williams’ production. I understand that there’s not much evidence to back up that statement based on Brown’s rookie season, but he has all the tools required to succeed.

This is really all about potential, and Noah Brown simply has more upside than Terrance Williams.

We all know what Terrance Williams is as a receiver, and what he brings to the table for the Cowboys offense. I believe Noah Brown can do all the things Williams does and has the potential to be even better.

I already think Noah Brown is a better blocker, something the Cowboys coaching staff really values about Williams. I also think Brown is a better pass catcher. He is a natural hands catcher and has a large catching radius, something Williams obviously isn’t (body catcher).

Right now, Williams is only better than Noah Brown in a few areas. He is slightly faster, he’s more advanced as a route runner, and has more experience. That’s about it.

This will obviously be a tough decision for the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff to make. But, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if we see Terrance Williams playing somewhere else when the 2018 season kicks off.

Do you think Terrance Williams will be with the Cowboys in 2018?

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Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?

Sean Martin

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Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 3

Three of the four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs — a win away from the Super Bowl — ranked within the top four defensively in yards per game allowed this season. The other is the defending-champion New England Patriots, who of course were expected to reach yet another AFC Championship game, thanks to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Somewhere between this field, losing their 2017 hopes at a deep playoff run to injuries, suspensions, and just poor execution at times, are the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys ranked eighth in yards allowed per game at 318.1 this season.

On the surface, all this provides hope that typically springs eternal around the league through the offseason.

It has been far too long since the Cowboys defense matched the skill level of the team’s offense, but Rod Marinelli’s unit (not exactly by design) outplayed that of Scott Linehan’s at times through this 9-7 campaign.

This defensive rebuild in Dallas began with the admission that this group had reached their ceiling in the offseason, as the Cowboys let long-time starters like CB Morris Claiborne, CB Brandon Carr, S Barry Church (now with the Jaguars), and S J.J. Wilcox go in free agency.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense?

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods (AP Photo / Ron Jenkins)

For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, looking to turn over an entire secondary in a division featuring Carson Wentz, Eli Manning, and Kirk Cousins as quickly as the Cowboys did was a risky move. Their confidence in hitting on draft picks paid off though.

The Cowboys’ bright future is predicated on the likes of CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Jourdan Lewis, and S Xavier Woods.

With two young starters at cornerback, the sky truly is the limit the this Cowboys defense. And they’ll play in support of an offense with more than enough talent to return to form in 2018.

As it stands now under Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys defense is built to keep everything in front of them, and get bodies to the football. This coverage-friendly approach could be taken to new heights with Lewis and Awuzie on the outside, along with Anthony Brown finding a home in the slot. All three cornerbacks have excelled at using their speed, length, and technique to get their hands on passes.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 1

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Of course, games are won in the trenches, where the idea of the Cowboys defensive line ever rising to the level of their offensive line was laughable until recently. Whether it’s with the franchise tag or a long-term extension, sack-artist DeMarcus Lawrence looks to be an all-important member of this entire team moving forward.

A healthy Lawrence was a nightmare for opposing right tackles in 2017. He earned a national spotlight each week on his way to the quarterback 14-and-a-half times. Making it look easy at times, Lawrence is a refined rusher with the speed and power to win inside and out.

The RDE position remains a sore spot in need of talent as this Cowboys defense looks to take the next step, but there’s hope for the likes of Randy Gregory, Charles Tapper, and Taco Charlton to get the job done, along with veteran starter Tyrone Crawford.

With Crawford at RDE for much of 2017, running the ball against the Cowboys front was a tall order. His ability to capture the corner against left tackles came as a pleasant surprise to many, and once in position, the defensive captain chased down plenty of plays.

Tyrone Crawford wasn’t the only pleasant surprise on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line this season.

Rookie Taco Charlton looked like an entirely different player to close a first year in Dallas that began with completely uninspiring results. Charlton — having the physical traits to play at the next level — was never a question out of Michigan.

He may never be a player to take over games for a defense, which the Cowboys couldn’t have expected to find at DE selecting 28th overall, but an improved player at DE and DT could be an incredibly valuable asset for the Cowboys in 2018 and beyond.

This leaves the Cowboys linebacker corps, where we find the best example of young potential on the entire defense. Amazingly playing in all 16 games, LB Jaylon Smith is in line to take a massive step forward in year two.

Smith closed his season looking enticingly close to the player he was at Notre Dame, an encouraging sign as the Cowboys look to become less dependent on Sean Lee on this side of the ball.

Lee and Smith paired together would give the Cowboys a middle-of-the-field presence to rival the best in the league. Both players have exceptional range and awareness to run down plays from sideline to sideline.

Anthony Hitchens, an impending free agent, is another valuable piece at LB with his ready ability to play all three positions at a relatively high level.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 2

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

Stefon Diggs racing to the end zone with no time left to send the Vikings to the NFC Championship game will be the lasting image of this past Divisional Round weekend, an offensive play that will live on forever.

A closer look at these games and the teams that survived them reveals a collective trust in defenses, a trust the Cowboys could be blissfully close to with their own young defense.

The Cowboys are likely losing one of the smarter minds behind their defense in recent years, with Matt Eberflus ticketed for Josh McDaniel’s staff, and are still in need of a secondary coach after not retaining Joe Baker. In a league where better talent typically prevails though, the possibility of the Cowboys building a championship defense for next season and beyond may not be far off.

With defenses in Jacksonville and Philadelphia providing the hope that both teams can pull off the impossible and reach the Super Bowl on Sunday, will defensive potential be enough for Dallas to get through this long offseason and start the even longer path back to their first NFC Championship game in 21 seasons?

Tell us what you think about “Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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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”?

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