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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
  • Ervinlang318

    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

      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

        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

        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.

  • oneputter

    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?

  • Ismael Ramirez

    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

  • ‘Po

    Quarterback play is hurting the Cowboys. Period.

  • wconsult

    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.

  • Earl Young

    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

  • EverybodyTalks

    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.

  • Emilio Gonzalez

    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

  • Russ_Te

    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

      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

        Is not a good pass catcher damn phone

  • Michael Barthel

    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

Game Notes

Cowboys, Falcons Week 11 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Zack Martin

The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons are both 4-5 and playing to keep their seasons alive. It's a mutual must-win game, and both will have to try to win it without some key players. Once again, we look at this week's injury reports.

Let's begin with your Cowboys, whose report is getting longer as the season wears on:

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
  • DE Taco Charlton (shoulder) - OUT
  • DT David Irving (ankle) - OUT
  • DT Daniel Ross (calf) - OUT
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - OUT
  • DT Antwaun Woods (concussion) - Doubtful
  • G Zack Martin (knee) - Questionable
  • G Connor Williams (knee) - Questionable
  • DT Maliek Collins (knee) - Questionable
  • LB Joe Thomas (foot) - Questionable

The biggest news is the guy who won't miss tomorrow's game; All-Pro guard Zack Martin is expected to play despite his knee injury from last Sunday night. The Cowboys, already dealing with Travis Frederick's absence and now health issues at left guard, could ill afford to go without Martin in such a pivotal game.

Even if he was healthy, rookie Connor Williams might have a hard time getting in the game. Backup Xavier Su'a-Filo looked like an experienced former second-round pick last week, and he may be the better player for now.

The defensive line has been hit hard, particularly in the middle. With Irving and Ross out, Woods doubtful, and Collins uncertain, Dallas called up DT Christian Ringo from the practice squad. They will also be without Taco Charlton, who could play inside some. Veteran Caraun Reid will be seeing a lot of playing time.

Sean Lee's ongoing absence has become almost an afterthought now with the stellar play of Leighton Vander Esch. We've seen in the past when missing Lee meant disaster on defense, but Dallas' first-round rookie has helped mitigate the damage.

Atlanta Falcons

  • LB Deion Jones (foot) - OUT

It's a short list for Atlanta, but the one name on it is a big one. Arguably the team's best defensive player, Deion Jones will miss the game with a foot injury.

The Falcons' injury issues have been more in players suffering season-ending injuries. Both starting guards, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, are on injured reserve. Star running back Devonta Freeman is also there, and those losses help explain Atlanta's 30th-ranked rushing offense.

Both starting safeties are also on IR; Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Atlanta has one of the league's worst passing defense this year without them, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 28th in opponent passer rating.

So yes, the Falcons injury report compared to the Cowboys' may raise some eyebrows. But in terms of who has most of their key guys, Dallas is arguably still better off.



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Dallas Cowboys

4 Best Candidates for Cowboys’ Next Offensive Coordinator

Shane Carter

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Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan

The big word around the Dallas Cowboys lately is about Jason Garrett and the future of the head coaching job. Some have speculated that either Quarterback Dak Prescott or Jason Garrett will get axed, and the other will stay.

Owner Jerry Jones was quoted on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas about his young quarterback, putting to bed at least half of the conflict.

"Dak is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He’s young and he’s going to get extended."

This shut the door on the idea of Prescott being replaced.

As far as Jason Garrett? Jerry Jones has been less than committed.

"I’m not in the business of backing anybody; the head coach, or offensive coordinator, I just don’t back them publicly." Jerry Jones said.

So it seems that Jason Garrett’s future is up in the air.

But what about offensive coordinator Scott Linehan? What’s held the Cowboys back this year has been the offense, and a lot of it can be contributed to their predictable play calling and inability to adapt to today’s game and its current players.

Whether or not Jason Garrett retains his job, Scott Linehan’s job doesn’t seem near as secure. His scheme doesn’t really mesh with Dak Prescott and how the offense could look. There’s only so many times you can run a three tight end set and not get furious.

Cowboys fans may want Garrett gone but they might have to settle for a new offensive coordinator instead.

The good news is that there are many options out there. Options that not only could work well with Dak Prescott, but could bring the Cowboys offense into the 2010s.

Shane Waldron

Jerry Jones once said how the Cowboys offense was like the LA Rams. If they are able to sign their Co-Offensive Coordinator, then they could be.

When Matt LaFleur left to become the Tennessee Titans OC, the job became a shared job between Waldron and Aaron Kromer. I wonder if Waldron would rather have the job all to himself?

What makes Waldron so appealing is he is also the Rams tight ends coach and passing game coordinator. Those are two areas where the Rams excel and where the Cowboys need help.

Teams are going to start copying the offensive juggernauts of the NFL and the Rams are definitely one of them. The Cowboys should do themselves a favor and get out in front before other teams beat them to it.

Scott Turner

Cam Newton is having one of his best seasons. Not only is he an MVP candidate but he’s set to have career highs in completion percentage and QBR, as well as a career low in interceptions. Cam Newton is a very talented quarterback but some of this has to be attributed to his new Quarterback Coach, Scott Turner.

The son of Norv Turner, Scott has seemingly helped mold Cam into a more accurate passer without compromising who Cam Newton is as an athletic quarterback. That has Dak Prescott written all over it.

He's got NFL lineage and a new, scary Cam Newton to add to his resume. He may not have as impressive a track record as others on here but he looks like he could be a chip off the old block and get the Cowboys where they need to be going.

Lincoln Riley

A popular head coach candidate, Lincoln Riley has shown his creativity and offensive innovation during his short time as Oklahoma’s head coach. It’s uncertain if he’ll get any real offers to be a head coach, but as an OC, he would be a serious grab.

Everyone has seen the work he’s done with Baker Mayfield and now Kyler Murray. How he’s able to incorporate different formations to open up the pass game and have the run game seem unstoppable. Just imagine what he could do with the weapons he would have at his disposal in Dallas.

It's likely that Lincoln Riley is a hot commodity for a head coach position, especially in Cleveland where he could reunite with Baker Mayfield. That shouldn’t stop the Cowboys from trying to lure him to Dallas, though. Lincoln Riley could be the real missing piece that Dallas has been looking for.

Eric Bieniemy

Another product of Andy Reid, Eric Bieniemy is the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. The former running backs coach has the experience under Andy Reid on not only how to run an offense but to use your weapons at your disposal to the fullest.

Maybe I’m over-hyping this man but when you see the work he helped put in with Pat Mahomes and how he uses those weapons around him, it makes me imagine what he can do for the Cowboy offense.

The team has no shortage of weapons and could benefit greatly from a guy like this.

If the Chiefs make it past their first playoff game, Bieniemy could become a more attractive name when it comes time for new head coaches. However, if Jerry Jones comes calling and the right offer is met, who’s to say?

If Kris Richard can be lured from Seattle to fix the Cowboys defense, Eric Bieniemy can be lured from Kansas City to fix the Cowboys offense.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

The Dallas Cowboys play their next three games in 13 days, all critical to their hopes of winning the NFC East despite alternating wins and losses since week one. For the Cowboys to earn consecutive road wins, their first coming on Sunday night at the Eagles, they'll have to come out of Atlanta in much better shape than they did just a year ago.

As expected in the NFL, a lot has changed in this year. The Cowboys 27-7 loss at the Falcons in their first game without Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was the beginning of the end on a season that forced a multitude of coaching changes in Dallas.

The Cowboys stubbornness in allowing Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn to sack Dak Prescott six times by beating Chaz Green and Byron Bell is something they hoped to move past when new positional coaches were brought in at OL, TE, QB, and WR.

It took the team admitting that these moves below Offensive Coordinator Scot Linehan were not all correct two weeks ago for the Cowboys to see any real progress, but with their win last week there's hope that the Cowboys are the improved team expected weeks ago - arrived just in time for Thanksgiving.

Firing Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander was the first move, as the Cowboys named Marc Colombo OL Coach and Hudson Houck his assistant. Colombo told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week that he has injured Center Travis Frederick on a headset during games as well.

Colombo, Houck, and Frederick have the Cowboys offensive line confident in their ability to play to their strengths, rewarded with a renewed faith in the zone blocking scheme that was forgotten under Alexander.

If the Cowboys offensive line was their first problem in last year's Falcons loss (it was), it's becoming their biggest strength at the right time in the season.

The Cowboys necessary changes didn't stop here though.

In desperate need of a play maker on the outside, the Cowboys are seeing their investment into Wide Receiver Amari Cooper pay off so far. Cooper is averaging 3.2 yards of separation on his routes this season, ahead of Cole Beasley's 2.6 yards as the next closest pass catcher.

Cooper's presence was a big part of Ezekiel Elliott's 151 yard rushing performance at the Eagles. A player that can win on the outside with ease and dictate coverage has benefited Prescott and the Cowboys game plan on offense enough to send away a first round pick.

It will be up to this "rebuilt" Cowboys offense to match the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, but a much more dangerous 32.2 at home. After a 1-4 start, the 4-5 Falcons are playing in front of their home fans for the first time in two weeks, losing at the Browns in week ten.

The Cowboys felt they'd be prepared for games like this after their offseason moves, instead needing to show the type of in-season urgency that's been rare for Jason Garrett's team. The same can be said about a Falcons team that's experienced playing with their backs to the wall much sooner than the Cowboys have this season, setting up a big NFC match up in the early slot Sunday.

Dak Prescott will be thankful that Chaz Green nor Byron Bell are protecting him, wanting nothing more than to deliver another win for the Cowboys to take into Thanksgiving against the division-leading Washington Redskins. Not all of the coaches responsible for the lack of adjustment in last year's game are gone. What the Cowboys do have are tangible new ideas from coaches that understand they need more than a win at the defending Super Bowl champions to call this Cowboys season a success.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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