For years now, the talk around the Dallas Cowboys was the need to invest in a tight end. Dating back to the 2018 season when Jason Witten retired just before the second round of the NFL Draft, many pegged the Cowboys to take his replacement as early as that day. Well, two seasons later and the replacement people were looking for was with the team all along.
Blake Jarwin spent just one game active for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017 after spending the first two months on the practice squad. Not long before his week ten debut against the Atlanta Falcons, the Philadelphia Eagles attempted to sign him off the practice squad, and he declined. Though he would only play three offensive snaps in his rookie season, in 2018, he found the field much more frequently.
In 2018, Jarwin was relegated to backup tight end status with Geoff Swaim taking the lead tight end snaps. The Cowboys didn’t give Jarwin a significant snap count until week 11 of that season. Over the final six games, he saw more than 50% of the snaps five times. And that is when he collected most of his statistical output.
In the first ten games of the season, Jarwin caught four passes on eight targets for just 42 yards. Not great, but when you don’t get much opportunity to see the field, you aren’t going to get many opportunities to catch the football.
Over the final six games, Jarwin had 23 receptions on 28 targets (82.1% catch rate) for 265 yards and three touchdowns. If you prorate that throughout a 16 game season, that’s 61 receptions for 707 yards and three touchdowns. Even if you take out the week 17 game against the New York Giants when he caught seven passes on eight targets for 119 yards and three touchdowns, the previous five games would prorate to 51 receptions for 467 yards. Not great, but something you’d gladly take out of a developing tight end.
And that brings us to 2019, a breakout that was unfortunately limited and overshadowed by a future Hall of Fame tight end that the Coaching staff wouldn’t take off the field.
However limited Jarwin was by the 2019 coaching staff, he still managed a solid 31 receptions on 41 targets for 365 yards and three touchdowns. Last season, Jarwin only saw the field for more than 50% of the snaps in one game, the 44-21 blowout of the Los Angeles Rams in week 15.
Now with Jason Witten gone, a new four-year contract, and a lack of investment at the position in free agency or the draft and Blake Jarwin is staring at an opportunity to take the NFL by storm in 2020. With all of the changes on the coaching staff, the discussions over Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott’s contracts, and the selection of CeeDee Lamb at pick 17 of the first round in the 2020 NFL Draft, Blake Jarwin has gotten lost in the shuffle.
Arguably, no player will have a more significant impact per opportunity ratio than Blake Jarwin. With so much attention focused on the other members of the offense, and rightfully so, Jarwin is going to find himself in terrific matchups all year long. And one could argue that Jarwin’s ability to stretch the field vertically down the seem will create a host of opportunities for other members of the offense as well. Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Mike McCarthy is excited about the potential of Blake Jarwin in this offense. When asked about what kind of impact Jarwin might have in 2020, he said:
“Well I think Blake is, he’s going to make a real impact on our offense… the ability to attack the middle of the field is always critical in my view to the success of a passing game in this league.
The fastest way to the end zone is through the post route. So the ability to get up on that second level as far as challenging the second level of defenders, he has that.
I tell you, he can really get it, I’ve been so impressed with him and really the whole tight end group. It’s a good-looking group, it has a group with a lot of depth, so I think Blake will definitely make an impact with his opportunities this year.”
Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Mike McCarthy via DallasCowboys.com
Among tight ends with at least 26 targets in 2019, Blake Jarwin finished 18th in yards after the catch per reception per Pro Football Focus. Jarwin was also 11th in yards per reception among that same tight end group. He averaged nearly twice as many yards after the catch per reception than Jason Witten did last season.
40% of Blake Jarwin’s targets went for first downs in 2019, the same amount as Jason Witten. Blake Jarwin, however, had the 11th lowest drop rate in the NFL at just 3.1%, while Witten had the eighth highest drop rate in the league at 8.7%.
Blake Jarwin’s athleticism and receiving ability will add a dynamic element to the Dallas Cowboys offense in 2020. And while he may not see the 82 targets Witten saw last season, Jarwin’s receptions will arguably have a more significant impact as he’s able to do much more down the field at this point in their respective careers.
As Kellen Moore and Dak Prescott found last year, they could win pushing the ball down the field and, in particular, down the middle of the field. With Blake Jarwin thrust into the starting lineup, the Cowboys have another weapon that can beat teams vertically and make something happen after the catch.
Both of those elements are huge for an offense. It’s incredibly challenging to go on seven to 10 play drives every time you’re on the field. The best offenses hit big plays, and they do it often. Blake Jarwin gives the Cowboys another player that can create big plays for the offense. He might not be the best player on the offense, but he’ll have a significant impact in 2020.