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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

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Draws Comparison to Dallas Legend

Jess Haynie

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Tavon Austin

It will be a few weeks before new Cowboys receiver Tavon Austin can make a big impression on Dallas fans. But apparently he's already done that with team owner Jerry Jones, who went so far as to compare Austin to the biggest legend in Cowboys WR history.

According to Rob Phillips of DallasCowboys.com, Jones said the following about Tavon after a recent practice:

Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Draws Comparison to Dallas Legend

Considering that Michael Irving's energy and leadership were an integral part of the 1990s Super Bowl teams, that's high praise. And given recent developments on the Cowboys offense, that sort of leadership is needed.

Say what you want about their declining performance, but Jason Witten and Dez Bryant were huge voices in the locker room. Their departures left a void of veteran leadership that, hopefully, Tavon Austin is helping to fill.

Personality is great, but a player also has to stand out on the field. Tavon's never been to a Pro Bowl and was almost a non-factor on the Rams last season. He won't keep his teammates' attention long if he's not backing it up with his play.

Michael Irvin's nickname was "The Playmaker." His performance justified his loud voice in the locker room.

Nobody expects Tavon Austin to be the Cowboys leading receiver in 2018, or even in the top three, but he will need to maximize his opportunities on offense and on special teams. He may not get close to the 907 combined yards and nine touchdowns he had as a Ram in 2015, but he still needs to be consistent and do the most with what he's given.

No, Austin's name won't ever be in the Ring of Honor with Michael Irvin's. But playing in his sixth season, Tavon has more experience than a lot of players on this young Cowboys roster. He's seen the highs of being an eight overall draft pick and the lows of being traded for peanuts for by his former team.

Hopefully, all of that has made him a voice of wisdom and encouragement for his new teammates. If so, Tavon Austin is an asset to this Dallas offense.



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Game Notes

Film Review: Connor Williams Overall Impressive In Preseason Debut

Kevin Brady

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Film Review: Connor Williams Overall Impressive In Preseason Debut

The collapse of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys can be, in large part, attributed to the collapse of their offensive line. When left tackle Tyron Smith was forced to miss time with various injuries, neither Chaz Green nor Byron Bell could get the job done in his place. Not only were these two replacements unsatisfactory, however, they were disastrous.

From the beginning of the 2017 season the Cowboys had a problem at left guard as well. With Ronald Leary departing for Denver and La'el Collins replacing Doug Free at right tackle, the left guard spot was left to an open competition between Jonathan Cooper and Chaz Green. Quite frankly, neither was impressive.

As a result Dak Prescott's sophomore season was nowhere near as fun or remarkable as his rookie season, and the Cowboys faltered down the stretch as a team. Trying to rectify these issues, Dallas drafted Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams in the second round of last year's draft.

Though it could be argued that, on paper, the Cowboys had more pressing needs than their All-Pro filled offensive line, adding a player like Connor Williams was exactly what this team needed to do if it wanted to emulate its 2016 success.

So, through one preseason game, how does the rookie look? Let's take to the film to decide just how good (or bad) Connor Williams was in his debut.

dalvssf2018 connor williams

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Let's begin with the bad. Really the only completely poor rep of the night for Connor Williams came on the first drive of the game. Williams is working against former first round pick DeForest Buckner here. Buckner, lined up as the 3 technique over Williams' outside shoulder, knows he is in a one-on-one situation with the rookie.

Buckner immediately swipes Williams' hands down, quickly flipping his hips and getting upfield. Besides not getting a strong enough punch, Williams' biggest mistake is that he stops his feet on contact. This allows Buckner to get him off balance, forcing Williams to bend at the waist and look lost.

Buckner then blows by him for the easy quarterback hit.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Later on the same drive we see Williams struggle to execute a reach block. Once again Williams is faced with a 3-technique, this time defensive tackle Sheldon Day. Day gets a great get-off, beating Williams initially with his first step. Day then does a great job of stoning Williams' playside shoulder and redirecting the running back.

This is another example of Connor Williams needing to increase his play strength and speed a bit. Multiple Cowboys reporters at training camp have mentioned these issues with Williams' game, and they flashed on tape during this rep.

Thankfully for both Connor Williams and the Cowboys, things only went uphill from here.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 3

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

On Dak Prescott's touchdown pass to Michael Gallup we see Connor Williams correct everything he had wrong earlier.

Williams comes out of his stance square, delivers a solid punch, and stones the defensive lineman at the line of scrimmage. Williams stays strong with his hands even as the defender attempts to swipe them down as Buckner successfully did earlier.

He allows for no interior pass rush and keeps Prescott's vision clear down the field.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Earlier on the same drive we see Connor Williams work well off a double team and on to the second level. Williams delivers a solid punch to the 1-technique on the inside of him, allowing Travis Frederick plenty of time to overtake the man and drive him back.

What's most impressive, though, is how Williams keeps his shoulders square and his eyes on the second level the entire time. He never buries his head or over-commits to the down lineman, allowing himself to be an athlete and help spring Rod Smith for a nice gain.

Despite some legit reasons for concern about Williams' game, I do believe he will be fine moving forward. Connor Williams is an excellent plug and play left guard who provides some tackle depth as well, and is a vital addition to the Cowboys 2018 offense. His debut performance gives all of us even more reasons to be excited about this offensive line.



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Dallas Cowboys

Possible Cowboys Roster Cuts Who Could Have Trade Value

Brian Martin

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Possible Cowboys Roster Cuts Who Could Have Trade Value

I know it's a little early in the process to start thinking about roster cuts with a few weeks of preseason still remaining, but I've been doing just that. You see, the Dallas Cowboys have very few available spots up for grabs, which means they will have to let go of some talented players.

Once cut, players are subject to the waiver wire and have no control over which team puts in a claim to acquire their service. It's just how things work in the NFL. But, if a team truly values someone at risk of being cut, they could try to work out a trade before the player hits the waiver wire. We have seen the Dallas Cowboys do this in the past.

With so much talent on the roster, the Cowboys could end up shopping some of their players before final cuts are made. There is no way of knowing if anybody would be interested in entering trade discussions for any of the Cowboys potential roster cuts, but I do believe they have a few players who have some trade value.

WR Terrance Williams 

Terrance Williams

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams

With the way some of the Dallas Cowboys younger wide receivers are performing in training camp practices and in preseason, Terrance Williams could find himself on the outside looking in when roster cuts are made. Yes, the Cowboys would have to be willing to swallow the dead money they'd have to take on by releasing him, but it could be worth it if it means keeping someone with more upside.

Williams could be viewed as a progress stopper with the Cowboys right now, which could make him expendable. He may not have value in Dallas any longer, but there are other teams around the NFL who could use his services. It probably wouldn't take more than a 2019 late round draft pick to acquire him if indeed the Cowboys are planning to move on.

TE Rico Gathers 

Rico Gathers

Dallas Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

There is an unwarranted fascination surrounding Dallas Cowboys Tight End Rico Gathers, despite very little production to justify it. I'll admit, I was excited about Gathers' development and what he could possibly turn into, but I think my excitement has dwindled. He simply hasn't emerged as of yet and I just don't think the Cowboys coaching staff has much faith in him doing so.

We all know Gathers could be a mismatch in the passing game, but the Cowboys ask a lot more from their TEs in their offensive scheme. Unfortunately, Gathers just hasn't been able to pick up the mental side of the game or develop as a blocker since coming to Dallas. I don't really think he's shown enough in the passing game to warrant a roster spot either, which means his fate could be sealed. But, some other team could be interested in trading for him instead of trying to pick him up off of waivers.

DE Kony Ealy

Kony Ealy

Dallas Cowboys DE Kony Ealy

At the time, I thought the Dallas Cowboys signing Defensive End Kony Ealy in the offseason was a good move. He provided some much-needed depth to the DE position, but that was before and this is now. Unfortunately for Ealy, he could be buried on the depth chart behind some young up-and-coming pass rushers with more upside.

This year's fourth-round draft pick Dorance Armstrong hass been a pleasant surprise so far and has probably secured a roster spot. Taco Charlton, the Cowboys first-round draft pick last year, looks like an entirely different player and isn't going anywhere. Then, you add in the return of Randy Gregory and that just doesn't leave much room for Ealy. But, the veteran could have other suitors around the league, prompting the Cowboys to trade him.

DE Charles Tapper

Charles Tapper

Dallas Cowboys DE Charles Tapper (Paul Spinelli via AP)

It's really unfortunate Charles Tapper hasn't really been healthy since joining the Dallas Cowboys. I think he is talented with starting potential, but injuries have prevented him from becoming the player I think he could be. But, just like Kony Ealy, Tapper is stuck in a numbers crunch and will likely be a roster cut when all is said and done.

I'm actually going to be a little disappointed to see Tapper go. I've been a fan of his, but there's comes a time when you have to cut ties, and his time looks as if it's up. He is as physically gifted as just about any defensive end in the NFL, which could mean another team would like to take a chance on him and work out a trade with the Cowboys.

Do you think any of these potential Dallas Cowboys roster cuts get traded?



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