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Cowboys’ TE Position Hurting Offensive Production?

Brian Martin

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Cowboys' TE Position Hurting Offensive Production?

The Dallas Cowboys offense has recently been in a slump and there is no clear answer as to why this is happening. I know the popular reason why is because of Ezekiel Elliott's suspension, but I think Elliott just masked deeper issues. Personally, I think it has to do with the limited amount of production the Cowboys offense is receiving from the tight end position.

Now, I agree that without Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup the offense for the Dallas Cowboys isn't the same. Elliott is a special player and replacing his productivity is nearly impossible. But, even before #21's suspension, the TE position for the Cowboys left a lot to be desired.

Unfortunately, the production from the TE position just isn't there this season. Jason Witten is no longer the threat he once was in the passing game and nobody else is even being utilized. That's why a lot of Cowboys Nation wants to get Rico Gathers on the field.

Rico Gathers, Rams

TE Rico Gathers

Rico Gathers pretty much looked unstoppable in the preseason and was on his way to becoming a serious threat for the Cowboys offense. Unfortunately, he suffered a concussion in practice and had to be placed on injured reserve, where he still remains. Sadly, that doesn't look to change this season.

Since Rico Gathers isn't going to join the active roster this season, the Dallas Cowboys have to find a way to get all of their TEs more involved. I know I'm going to be harassed for even suggesting it, but it might mean it's time to see less of Jason Witten.

Please don't get me wrong, I am a huge Jason Witten fan. In fact, he is probably my favorite all-time player to ever suit up for the Dallas Cowboys. But, he's not doing the offense any favors by playing so many snaps.

The Cowboys offense could use a seam buster from the TE position. This is where Jason Witten used to be really dangerous, but he no longer has the speed/acceleration to create separation down the seam like he used to. And unfortunately, the other TEs on the roster don't run many routes in the passing game, instead are asked to stay in and block.

Sadly enough, this is one of the reasons why the Cowboys offense is so predictable. They run a lot of two TE sets, but the defense knows pre-snap that Witten is the only one who will be involved in the passing game. And unfortunately, because he has lost a step, he is limited to the routes he can run.

TE Jason Witten

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

I think it's time the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff shakes things up at the tight end position just like they did on the defensive side of the ball last week with their secondary. James Hanna and Geoff Swaim definitely need to be involved more, but I don't really think it's going to happen.

To date, Hanna has only one catch for 28 yards, although it did go for a touchdown. Swaim on on the other hand has been a little bit more productive with two catches for 25 yards. That doesn't really suggest they will receive more opportunities in the passing game anytime soon.

I believe the tight end position is severely handcuffing the Cowboys offense this season. Something definitely needs to change, which means Jason Witten might have to accept a decrease in playingtime. That likely won't happen, but that's probably what it's going to take to get more production from the position.

Do you think the Cowboys TEs are hurting the offense?



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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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Ervinlang318

    December 7, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    They know Rico is better than Witten that’s why they have kept him on IR for a concussion. He is a real threat to Mr Cowboy

    • D Reyes

      December 7, 2017 at 12:29 pm

      To say that he is better is a stretch. Witten has years upon years of experience at the position where he has truly picked up so many tools that have elevated his game. Rico may be more faster or athletic but not better.

      • Ervinlang318

        December 7, 2017 at 3:59 pm

        Maybe not better but more effective.Rico can turn a under thrown 7yard catch into a 10 yard catch. Jason turns a 7 yard catch into a 7 yard catch.

      • Tommy Davis

        December 8, 2017 at 10:06 am

        I have always loved Jason Witten, but the decline in his play is obvious. Gathers is a huge threat to opposing defenses. He can’t be covered by one on one, his speed, height, reach, jumping ability, and good hands is a nightmare for the defense. I don’t believe the Cowboys should give up on Witten, but I do believe that he should share time with Gathers. With Elliot out, the Cowboys have made things extremely difficult for Prescott by keeping Gathers on the IR when he could have been activated after game #8. Football is a business, the Cowboys let affections for players negatively affect their chances of winning football games. Up and coming teams like the Rams, Eagles, Jaguars, Falcons all put the most talented players on the field. The Cowboys need to do the same.

  2. oneputter

    December 7, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    i think the TE is hurting the offense, specifically 82. he is no longer that threat which keeps safeties back. they know he doesn’t have speed to stretch the field vertically.

    nowadays he runs to the chains and sits or runs some chain movers to the SL.

    i do think swaim has a bit more speed and should be used as that threat in the middle of the field, forcing the safeties to stay back.

    but we all know 82 ain’t going anywhere. maybe the staff can find ways to use 87 in the vertical passing game?

  3. Ismael Ramirez

    December 7, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    Of course his lost his step just look at the other tight ends in the league and most of them are dominating in the League in passing. Jason written is great and will always be but things do need to change he can still get a ring but his got to let other players play to help us get to the big game. His not fast anymore

  4. 'Po

    December 7, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    Quarterback play is hurting the Cowboys. Period.

  5. wconsult

    December 8, 2017 at 11:30 am

    The TE position isn’t the problem with the Cowboys. Dez is way over-rated and hasn’t performed see he signed his mega contract. Dak isn’t getting the job done without Elliott. There are other teams in the league without a running game that their QBs lead their team. Dak isn’t there yet.

    So if Dallas doesn’t do something about getting two great running backs on their roster then we will be a .500 team at best.

  6. Earl Young

    December 8, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    Has nothing to do with Jason witten, everything to do with the play calling which the coaching does and the poor play of our wideouts & QB play

  7. EverybodyTalks

    December 8, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    I think they need to add competition on the offensive side in the same manner they did on the defensive side last week. Brice Butler sit down and Ryan Switzer come on down. Witten does need to sit down on a few plays also. Let Noah Brown help block and incorporate these 2 rookies into the offense. As far as Rico goes, the decision is done. I don’t think you can bring him in this late in the season, especially when, as Dak puts it, every week is a playoff game.

  8. Emilio Gonzalez

    December 8, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    I agree with you Brian Martin your right on it with the TE Position,Rico Gathers should have been playing or involved in the Cowboys offense simple as that Rico can Play. Thanks

  9. Russ_Te

    December 9, 2017 at 12:46 am

    I have held since Atlanta, that receivers not winning their routes is the biggest factor in the offensive downturn, with pass protection a pretty close #2. Morris has been good enough to win.

    With less help, Dak has at times tried to do too much. But when we have 3 or 4 seconds invested in a pass play and the ball is not away, open shots are not presenting themselves. That’s a good way bog down & punt a lot.

    I see a collective fail that starts with defenses rotating down on Beasley. Now Dez, Williams and Witten have to get open.

    I’d rather stretch the coverage with Butler and work Dez underneath it. Witten is a great blocker and of course can make a big play still, like his TD last week. But we know his remaining games in the NFL are numbered. Gathers needs reps now to help set up 2018.

    • Michael Barthel

      December 9, 2017 at 9:05 pm

      See the difference tho is Morris has been good he doesn’t scare teams and defenses know when we will run the ball cuz Morris is a good pass catcher. So when we bring rod smith on the field they know most likely it’s a pass. When we bring Morris on the field they know it’s a run all the way. Morris is still producing but with Elliott teams had to respect him as a runner and a pass catcher cuz he is dangerous as both. Morris not so much

      • Michael Barthel

        December 9, 2017 at 9:06 pm

        Is not a good pass catcher damn phone

  10. Michael Barthel

    December 9, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    I have to disagree witten has never had the speed or acceleration so he never lost it. He has always been a great finesse route runner. But let’s not do witten like giants did Eli. Witten is one of the greatest Dallas cowboys of all time. He is still the 2nd or 3rd leading receiver on this team. If Elliott was still on the team I think you would see more production from witten. He had some good games with Elliott in there. I do agree gathers is a monster and I can’t wait for him to be on the field as our future starting tight end. Imagine Elliott dak gathers switzer and offensive line for years to come. I think dez won’t be here long that’s why I didn’t mention him. If we can draft a guy like Calvin Ridley or James Washington this offense will be a force. I love witten and still think at 35 years old he can still be a good tight end cuz he has never had good speed he always been a great route runner. I get what your saying but I keep playing witten till he can’t play anymore then Gathers show. Yes I do agree tho that maybe they should get gathers next year alot of reps on the field but with him and witten together

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys WR Cole Beasley Wants Bigger Role, Blames Front Office

Jess Haynie

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Cole Beasley

With free agency on the horizon, Cole Beasley isn't pulling any punches about his dissatisfaction with his role in the Dallas Cowboys offense. Could this have him wanting a change of scenery in 2019?

Today, Beasley made some big statements on his personal Twitter account. The first was only an appetizer.

Cole Beasley on Twitter

Utilization is more important than money. https://t.co/qP8XoR6uBu

One has to think that Cole sees the success players with his skills have had in a system like New England's, or even just other more proficient passing offenses, and thinks he could do even more elsewhere.

But even when it was suggested that the firing of Scott Linehan could bring some new opportunities for Beasley in Dallas, the receiver dropped this bomb.

Cole Beasley on Twitter

Honestly, the front office pushes who they want to get the ball to. I haven't been a huge priority in that regard. Maybe that will change but I'm not sure. More balls come my way in 2 minute drill where nothing is planned. https://t.co/ioih9BJJv1

Well, there's no denying his frustration there.

Some might be confused by this, given that Beasley was the most-targeted receiver or tight end in the 2018 offense. Only Ezekiel Elliott got more passes thrown his way.

However, Cole's role did diminish once Amari Cooper showed up. And in the Cowboys' playoff loss to the Rams, Beasley only got two targets the whole game. Cooper and Michael Gallup got nine targets each.

You could see where there was some executive agenda behind getting Cooper and Gallup the ball. Dallas wanted their trade of a first-round pick for Amari to be validated. They also are invested in Michael as a future starter. What Cole said isn't without merit.

Despite what he tweeted, though, Beasley did say that he was open to returning to the Cowboys.

Cole Beasley on Twitter

Doesn't mean I'm gone. I'll play anywhere where I can make more of an impact. I would love for that to be Dallas or anywhere else that will give me more pops to make an impact. I just wanna ball. It's hard with 3 to 4 opps a game. https://t.co/zImZKxkAvD

So no, it's not time to put your Beasley jerseys on eBay just yet. But given these comments, it's clear that Cole is looking for more than money in his contract.

Will the Cowboys have a satisfying answer for him? And if Beasley does want a bigger role, will he also want to be paid closer to what he thinks he's worth?

It's easy to say it's not about money, but the two really do go hand in hand.

Free agency may not open until March 13th, but Cole Beasley is already showing his cards. How will the Dallas Cowboys respond?



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Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowlers Show Promise for Future

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowlers Show Promise for Future

The next class of players to join the Dallas Cowboys may be on the field at Mobile, Alabama this week for the Senior Bowl, but their young core is well represented in front of the Cowboys coaching staff at the Pro Bowl.

With Left Tackle Tyron Smith and Right Guard Zack Martin not participating, the Cowboys have six Pro Bowl participants. The improved health of their offensive line is still one of the best things going for this team in the early part of the offseason, expecting four-time Pro Bowl Center Travis Frederick to rejoin Smith and Martin as soon as OTAs.

A compilation of the best linemen in the NFC will have to do for Quarterback Dak Prescott and Running Back Ezekiel Elliott - making their second Pro Bowl appearance together. It took the addition of Wide Receiver Amari Cooper for the Cowboys offense to find their expected form under Prescott and Elliott in their third season, as Cooper will appear in his fourth Pro Bowl in as many years.

Both times Elliott's made the Pro Bowl, he's done so as the league's rushing champion.

Hardly on track to reach Orlando with the Oakland Raiders, Cooper put up 725 yards and six touchdowns on 53 catches in nine regular season games for the Cowboys. He followed up this resurgent performance with seven catches for 106 yards in the Wild Card Round vs. the Seahawks and six for 65 and a touchdown at the Rams in the Divisional Round.

The Cowboys shouldn't be done adding talent at wide receiver, with Cooper serving as the bold reminder of what Prescott can do with dynamic talent on the outside. Moving on from Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan already this offseason, the next steps towards building the offense around Dak's strengths is yet to be determined.

Meanwhile, their established strengths will be on display, and not just on offense at the Pro Bowl. Making strides as one of the best young defenses in the league this season, Cowboys rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch will be joined by Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence and Cornerback Byron Jones.

Though its unlikely their coaching will match the intensity of the season, the best thing these three defenders have going for them is more time under Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard. One of Richard's first moves with the Cowboys was moving Jones to cornerback, where he became a first-time Pro Bowler.

Unable to reach his full athletic potential at safety, Jones was the elite corner the Cowboys needed at a position still in need of depth. His length and range should make him a fixture in Richard's secondary for a long time.

Vander Esch becomes the 11th Cowboys rookie to make a Pro Bowl, the third on the defensive side of the ball. Surely the Wolf Hunter will look forward to another week of football, going from eight man HS player to one-year starter at Boise State and finally a Cowboys fixture at linebacker.

The Cowboys did what was thought to be proved impossible this season by fielding a competent defense (mostly) without Sean Lee. Vander Esch and teammate Jaylon Smith deserve the credit here, with Leighton making a larger immediate impact than ever expected as the 19th overall pick.

Last but nowhere near least is DeMarcus Lawrence, much closer to the Cowboys top priority in free agency this offseason than an afterthought at his second Pro Bowl. Putting together consecutive seasons with at least ten sacks, the Cowboys don't have to see anything further from their top pass rusher to do whatever it takes to re-sign him.

The rest of the Cowboys "Hot Boyz" have a lot of potential and promise, but Lawrence is a rare proven commodity at defensive end with 25 sacks in his last 32 games. Rushing the passer in the Pro Bowl is a relatively futile task, but the Cowboys know Lawrence is capable of saving his best plays for the biggest moments. Also a dominant run defender, there simply shouldn't be a reality where the Cowboys are forced to field a defense without Lawrence at left end in 2019 and beyond.

The Cowboys at the Pro Bowl will tell you they'd prefer to be missing the game in preparation for the Super Bowl. Getting within two games of this feat after a 3-5 start is still impressive enough for the Cowboys to feel great about their future, in large part because of the six players representing America's Team this week.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowlers Show Promise for Future" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Dallas Cowboys

Handing out Hardware for the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season

John Williams

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Resilience Earns Prescott's 1st Playoff Win, Trip to Divisional Round

The 2018 NFL season for the Dallas Cowboys was literally a roller coaster ride with as many ups and downs as the Texas Giant. Through the first seven games of the season the Cowboys alternated home wins with road losses to get to 3-4. They made as big of a personnel move as they've made in recent years when they traded for Amari Cooper only to all to 3-5 in his debut on Monday Night Football to the Tennessee Titans.

Then the team went on an improbably five game winning streak to put themselves in position to win the NFC East for the third time in five years by mid December. The Cowboys were able to pick up the win in the wild card round over the Seattle Seahawks before being ousted by Todd Gurley, C.J. Anderson, and the Los Angeles -- battering -- Rams' offensive line.

The season always ends with a little disappointment for 31 of the NFL's 32 teams, but this year felt different at the end because of where they were to start the season and after eight games. After the Tennessee game, this team was written off. They were Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. They stormed back and made the 2018 season a memorable one, even if it didn't end with a sixth Lombardi Trophy.

Let's give out some post season awards to your Dallas Cowboys.

MVP

Dak Prescott, Quarterback

Many will scoff at this choice and think it could be Ezekiel Elliott, and I understand, but nobody had a greater impact on the Dallas Cowboys making the playoffs and winning their matchup with the Seattle Seahawks than Dak Prescott did.

Over the final eight games of the season, Dak averaged 278 passing yards per game, 2 total touchdowns, and threw only three interceptions. His numbers down the stretch over a 16 game pace were phenomenal. On 71.6% passing, he was on pace for 4,450 yards, 24 passing touchdowns, eight rushing touchdowns, only six interceptions on the season, with a passer rating of 103.4.

John Williams ✭ on Twitter

Not to make this about Dak, but I'm going to make this about Dak. 2nd in success rate, 3rd in EPA and EPA/play among playoff QBs. #CowboysNation https://t.co/Evyf73uzJ9

His play in the win over the Seattle Seahawks was instrumental in getting the victory to move on to the divisional round. Though they fell short against the Los Angeles Rams, Dak was able to bring them back from 16 down early in the second half to make it a one score game in the end.

Dak Prescott is still a developing player, and in reality, all players are trying to grow their game. Every season. Prescott is a good quarterback, who is on his way to being great and we saw this season the potential that he has.

He threw for a career high 455 yards against the Eagles and three touchdowns and then threw for 387 yards and four touchdowns against the New York Giants. There's evidence now that Dak can throw the ball, and that should scare teams.

In the playoffs, Prescott stepped up and was a big reason why the Cowboys beat the Seahawks and hung in there against the Rams.

Offensive Player of the Year

Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back

Three years, two rushing titles, and it almost seemed like a "meh" season for Ezekiel Elliott. Sure he had some big games, but only a couple times this season did it feel like Elliott took over the game. Some of that is due to the offensive line injuries and inconsistencies, but some of that may be due to Elliott who saw a much bigger workload than he had in his career to date.

He was much more actively involved in the passing game this season as he more than doubled his previous career high with 77 receptions for 567 yards. Though he won the rushing title, this was the lowest rushing yards per game he's had in his short three-year career. Elliott only scored nine touchdowns this season, which tied with his 2017 total that he accrued in only 10 games.

Elliott struggled some in the red zone because the team struggled in the red zone. Some of those issues related to the offensive line and some because of the play calling, but you'd hope that Elliott would be able to overcome some of that where it mattered most.

Defensive Player of the Year

DeMarcus Lawrence, Defensive End

No player on defense has a bigger impact for the Dallas Cowboys than Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence. Whether it's in the run game or the passing game, DeMarcus Lawrence is elite in both categories and makes life incredibly difficult on the opposing offense.

On the season he had 10.5 sacks, finishing with double-digit sacks for the second year in a row. While that may not be as impressive as his 2017 total of 14.5, he was doing his thing with much less help along the defensive line. There wasn't another player who flirted with double-digit sacks this season. Though Randy Gregory, Maliek Collins, and Tyrone Crawford performed well, teams gave all of their attention to Lawrence in both the run and pass game.

And he was still amazingly effective.

Lawrence finished fifth among EDGE players -- 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebackers -- in tackles, fourth in the NFL in Pro Football Focus' "stops" measure with 44, and 15th in total pressures. Pro Football Focus ranked Lawrence as the seventh best EDGE defender, ninth best pass rusher, and the 12th best run defender. J.J. Watt and Khalil Mack were the only other EDGE defenders who ranked in the top 12 as both a pass rusher and run defender per Pro Football Focus.

DeMarcus Lawrence is heading into the offseason looking to get a long-term deal done.

Rookie of the Year

Leighton Vander Esch, Linebacker

While Connor Williams and Michael Gallup had really good starts to their NFL career's no rookie for the Dallas Cowboys was as impressive as 19th overall pick Leighton Vander Esch. He led the Dallas Cowboys in tackles and "stops" and had the second highest grade of any defender as graded by Pro Football Focus.

In tackles, he was second only to future Hall of Fame inductee Luke Keuchly and fellow rookie Darius Leonard. Vander Esch did all this while playing a limited number of snaps as the Dallas Cowboys eased him in at the start of the season and then attempted to find a way to have Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, and Sean Lee on the field together.

It was an impressive year for the former Boise St. Bronco and the sky is the limit for Vander Esch. He's now played just his second season as a starter in 11-man football. If you remember, he didn't start for Boise St. till the 2017 season and had played 8-man football in high school.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what kind of progression Vander Esch can make to his game in 2019. He's going to be a great player.

Most Improved Player

Jaylon Smith, Linebacker

The 2017 season was not kind to Jaylon Smith. It was his first attempt at playing football since January of 2016 when he tore his ACL in the Fiesta Bowl. It was amazing that he was even playing, though he didn't play considerably well.

2018, however, was a different story.

Jaylon Smith could make a case for team MVP. He may not have had as many tackles as Vander Esch, or as many sacks, but by playmaking defensive EPA, he was nearly as effective at making big plays on defense as DeMarcus Lawrence.

Cowboys Stats & Graphics on Twitter

Overall playmaking EPA rank among all NFL defenders: 5. DeMarcus Lawrence 7. Jaylon Smith 58. Leighton Vander Esch

EPA measures the effect a play will have on the score. Not all plays are weighted the same, as some weigh heavier because of down and distance, turnovers, etc. Jaylon Smith had an excellent season for the Dallas Cowboys and looks to be the guy that they thought he would be when they selected him at the top of the second round in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Having Smith and Vander Esch roaming around the middle of the field for the Dallas Cowboys moving forward is huge. They're excellent at moving in space and are excellent definitions of "sideline to sideline" players.

Jaylon Smith is one of the players I'm already looking forward to watching again in the 2019 season.

Comeback Player of the Year

Randy Gregory, Defensive End

After sitting out all but two games of the 2016 season and all of last season, Randy Gregory came back this season and had a good year. With only one sack in his career heading into the 2018 season, Gregory had a nice comeback year with five sacks and finished tied for second on the team with 37 pressures according to Pro Football Focus. According to Pro Football Reference, Gregory was second on the team in tackles for loss.

The Cowboys have Randy Gregory under contract for the 2019 season for just under $1 million.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Dallas Cowboys have a lot to feel optimistic about as they look to roster build this offseason in preparation of the 2019 season. They have several ascending players playing key roles for them. This team looks primed to contend again in 2019.



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