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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?

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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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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

Should Cowboys Pursue Veteran Backup at Quarterback?

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys en Español: Cooper Rush
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys only have two quarterbacks under contract right now, starter Dak Prescott and backup Cooper Rush. With only three years of combined experience between them, one could argue that a veteran presence would be useful. Should Dallas make a veteran QB a free-agent priority in the 2018 offseason?

Of course, there’s plenty of other QB experience on the Cowboys staff. Head Coach Jason Garrett played professionally from 1989-2004, and started his coaching career with quarterbacks.

Scott Linehan has been coaching offense with an emphasis on the passing game for 30 years.

Kellen Moore, who is taking over for the departed Wade Wilson as quarterbacks coach, has played very recently and will bring a fresh perspective.

However, losing Wilson’s experience from the room, and the lack of any veteran player at QB, shouldn’t be dismissed.

Dak Prescott has said veteran Mark Sanchez — who was with Dallas in 2016 — was a major help during his whirlwind rookie season. Tony Romo enjoyed veteran advice from guys like Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, and Kyle Orton throughout his playing career.

This isn’t to say Dallas would want to bring in a veteran to knock Cooper Rush down the depth chart. After a surprising preseason, Rush took the backup job from Kellen Moore and certainly has intriguing upside.

If the Cowboys were to add a veteran, that player would have to come in with the understanding he’s competing with Cooper and may not be guaranteed a job.

The good news is that it’ll be a buyer’s market for veteran quarterbacks this offseason.

Guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and Matt Moore could all be available. Even a player with more pedigree, such as Sam Bradford, may have trouble finding starting work with many jobs taken among the NFL’s 32 teams.

Dallas could even consider bringing back Mark Sanchez, given his previous relationship with Dak Prescott. He only had a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears.

Given Prescott’s seeming durability, Dallas will likely only keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in 2018 and for years to come. Because of that, they may be content to focus on Dak and Cooper Rush, and just get through the offseason with training camp bodies.

However, the case can certainly be made for adding another veteran player with the desire to teach to help these young quarterbacks develop. Prescott was not the same guy in 2017 that we saw as a rookie, and perhaps the absence of guys like Sanchez and Tony on the sideline had something to do with that.

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Dallas Cowboys

Why WR Coach Sanjay Lal is a Good Hire for Cowboys

Kevin Brady

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Why WR Coach Sanjay Lal Is A Good Hire For Cowboys

Yesterday, it was announced that the Dallas Cowboys will hire Sanjay Lal to be their new wide receivers coach. Lal spent 2017 with the Indianapolis Colts in the same position, but has made multiple stops around the NFL prior to joining the Cowboys staff.

Most recently and arguably most notably, Sanjay Lal was the receivers coach for both the New York Jets (2012-2014) and the Buffalo Bills (2015-2016). This means he coached on Rex Ryan’s staff for two different teams, with two very similar offensive philosophies.

Run the football.

As seen in the video below, Sanjay Lal has experience working as the wide outs coach for an offense with a run-first philosophy. He even says himself that their offense in New York was “ground and pound,” but notes that “without a pass game there’s no pound.”

Cowboys fans became all too familiar with the truth behind that statement during the 2017 season, as even solid efforts in the run game were rendered meaningless by their lack of explosion through the air.

Jets Nation Inside Camp: Sanjay Lal Mic’d Up

Jets wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal is mic’d up during training camp, and also discusses trying to play pro football before becoming a coach in the NFL.

A lot has been made of Sanjay Lal’s lack of 1,000-yard receivers during his time as a coach. The offensive philosophies of the teams which he coached for, however, show why this criticism is flimsy.

It’s quite possible the Cowboys will once again be without a 1,000 yard pass catcher this season, but if Ezekiel Elliott and the run game are clicking, and Dak Prescott is spreading the ball to different targets, this stat won’t mean a thing.

Lal was also the coach in Buffalo when Sammy Watkins had the best years of his career, including a 1,000-yard season.

During that stint he coached Robert Woods to productive seasons as well. Now Woods is a dangerous target for the Los Angeles Rams after being coached by Lal for multiple seasons.

These were also the same years that quarterback Tyrod Taylor was at his best.

While in New York, with the Jets, Lal’s most productive receiver was Jeremy Kerley, who finished with 827 yards in 2012 and 523 in 2013. What’s important to note here is that Kerley played as a slot receiver for much of his time as a Jet.

The Cowboys lacked any type of production from the slot in 2017, but maybe Lal can change that by getting the best out of Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer, as he did with Kerley.

Bryan Broaddus on Twitter

Know that some believe he had a real shot to be an OC in this league one day. https://t.co/1s21w2jZGR

All indications from those “in the know” suggest Sanjay Lal is on his way to becoming an offensive coordinator soon. Many believe he has the smarts and the football IQ to command an offense himself, as soon as he gets the right opportunity.

Maybe that opportunity will come down the line in Dallas, where he can continue to coach within that “ground and pound” style, which he has done for many years while also implementing elements of his own passing game expertise.

Everyone has been critical of the Cowboys’ inability to bring in external hires, and to spark up new/creative offensive ideas. Lal has spent time among some of the smartest offensive minds in football.

Maybe he’s the man to bring in that outside creativity this offense seems to lack.

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Dallas Cowboys

Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

Sean Martin

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Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

After hiring Paul Alexander to fill their vacant OL coaching position, the Dallas Cowboys are continuing to retool their offensive staff below Scott Linehan. Sanjay Lal has been hired to coach the Cowboys’ wide receivers, replacing Derek Dooley.

Lal has experience as a WR coach with four different teams, dating back to 2009 with the Oakland Raiders. He was promoted up to this position after serving as the Raiders’ quality control coach from 2007-08.

David Moore on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys have reached an agreement with Sanjay Lal to become the team’s WR coach. Lal was with Indianapolis last season and replaces Derek Dooley on the staff.

Most recently, Sanjay Lal coached the receivers for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. He has also been with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.

In this interview with the Colts, Lal mentions being very detail-oriented with a focus on the technical aspects of playing receiver.

Lal beats out former Cowboys WR Miles Austin for this position, earning the right to lead a room of receivers in desperate need of fresh talent. In an offseason that’s been about finding fresh ideas with the coaching staff so far though, the Cowboys have a new voice on offense.

Tell us what you think about “Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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