This being the slowest portion of the NFL’s year, there’s no telling what Cowboys thoughts will cross our collective minds from now until training camp in Oxnard. Today, my mind has been on the rookie class, leading me first to Connor Williams and then the tight end position.
Connor Williams’ starting spot as the Cowboys left guard will have next to no impact on the Cowboys final depth chart at tight end, but their approach to balancing the numbers at both positions is important.
Well before adding a new tight end to a roster that won’t feature Jason Witten for the first time in 15 years, the Cowboys signed Offensive Tackle Cam Fleming and Guard Marcus Martin in free agency, while also giving a new contract to Guard Joe Looney.
These additions sure feel more significant than the 137th overall pick the Cowboys spent on Dalton Schultz, who caught just 55 passes in 40 games played at Stanford.
Schultz shouldn’t feel too far behind his teammates in TE Coach Doug Nussmeire’s room. Geoff Swaim’s nine career catches covers the production of the other three TEs on the roster — Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, and UDFA David Wells (San Diego State).
Regardless of which TEs make the final roster, the best thing they can do to get on the field for an offense seemingly moving to more open personnel is block in the running game. The Cowboys shouldn’t shy away from establishing Running Back Ezekiel Elliott as their best offensive threat, even if opposing defenses know as much.
This is exactly the reasoning behind tightening up their suspect offensive line depth from 2017. A clear commitment to not only reintroducing Elliott through 16 games to the NFL, but protecting third-year Quarterback Dak Prescott, is potentially bad news for this hopeful group of Cowboys tight ends.
The Cowboys have used a player like Joe Looney as an extra lineman in lieu of a tight end plenty of times before, valuing this role and the swing ability from Looney enough to not only re-sign him but add another massive guard in Damien Mama too.
Mixing between spread looks and these “Jumbo” sets could be just the wrinkle the Cowboys need to maximize their talent on offense, of which they seemingly don’t have much of at TE – something I have hard time believing changes in Oxnard.
Sure, Rico Gathers is a match up problem for defenders when in the pattern, and the type of red zone target Prescott could use, but the completeness of his game will call into question how much the Cowboys get out of him in 2018.
Geoff Swaim and Dalton Schultz feel like the only safe bets, as of right now, to make the Cowboys roster. With Swaim taking strides each year since 2015, and Schultz having enough blocking experience out of college, these two TEs may be the perfect solution for the Cowboys to carry maximum OL talent into the season.
Given their track record of finding ready-made linemen, and not-so-ready tight ends behind Witten, Cowboys Nation can only hope this is the right direction for the Cowboys offense to go.