When Jason Witten up and retired just before the start of the second round of the NFL Draft this past offseason, the Cowboys were left with an enormous hole at the Tight End position. The Cowboys had opportunities to address the position in the draft in the second and third round, but stayed with their pre-draft plan and addressed it in the middle rounds by selecting Dalton Schultz in the fourth round.
The message the coaches and front office preached was they would attempt to fill the production void left by the future hall of famer with a committee approach with veteran Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, and the newly added rookie Schultz.
It was a risky approach at a position that had provided elite production for a decade and a half, but given when the void was created, they didn't really have many options.
Credit the Dallas Cowboys front office and coaching staff for not panicking and staying the course at the position with players that they've been rather fond of. In particular, Blake Jarwin, who the team promoted from the practice squad late last season when the Philadelphia Eagles came calling attempting to sing Jarwin to their roster.
While they're going to be hard pressed to get the same elite-level production out of players with such limited experience in the NFL, as they did out of Witten. They're approach may not have paid off early in the season, but over the last eight games, the tight end position has been really productive for the Cowboys.
If we go back and look at the leading receiver at tight end, the Cowboys got. Pretty solid season out of their group of imtight ends. With Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers, and Blake Jarwin each leading the position in at least one game (though Rico's two targets, no receptions game hardly led the team), the TE1 combined for 63 targets, 50 receptions, 530 yards, and four touchdowns.
Those numbers at first glance may not look great, but they sit just outside of the top ten if you compare them to individual tight end performances in 2018.
Obviously that isn't prime or peak Jason Witten who was putting together 80-100 catch seasons during his prime like clockwork. Even if you just look at what Jason Witten has done since he turned 30, it's still not matching his production. From his age 30 season on, Witten averaged 106 targets per season for 76 receptions, 756 yards, and four touchdowns. Where the 2018 tight end production does compare favorably is to Jason Witten's 2017 where he saw 87 targets, caught 63 passes for 560 yards, and five touchdowns.
Found this interesting: Cowboys tight ends in 2018: 68 catches, 710 yards, 4 TDs Cowboys tight ends in 2017: 69 catches, 673 yards, 6 TDs
Jason Witten's 2017 and the Cowboys TE1 2018 is very similar in production.
However, with what Blake Jarwin's done over the last four games of the season, if you project that over a 16 game season, you'd get 80 receptions on 100 targets for 912 yards and 12 touchdowns. Now that production looks a lot like what Jason Witten did for much of his career.
Obviously, it's not as simple as taking a four game sample size and projecting it out, but we can see why the Cowboys were so excited about Jarwin as a player. He's displayed excellent hands, route running, and athleticism since he's been unleashed in the last four weeks.
Dallas Cowboys undrafted rookie TE Blake Jarwin has now done something that Jason Witten never did.
As if Blake Jarwin’s game wasn’t awesome enough, he was able to accomplish something that Witten never did; catch three touchdowns in a game. That’s pretty incredible considering how many passes he caught over the course of his career.
The Cowboys brass took a huge risk in attemptin to fill the Grand Canyon-sized hole left by Jason Witten’s retirement. While they started out slowly, the tight end group for the Cowboys is playing really good football right now and could have a huge impact on how deep the Dallas Cowboys go in the playoffs this year.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
Breaking: Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys Part Ways
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have mutually agreed to part ways following a tumultuous season that saw the Dallas Cowboys offense finish outside the top 12 three out of his four seasons in Dallas.
Sources: The #Cowboys are firing OC Scott Linehan. Taking their offense in a new direction. An announcement is coming.
Scott Linehan was brought in prior to the 2015 season and saw his offenses finish 31st, fifth, 14th, and 22nd in his four years as the Cowboys play caller. The 2015 season can be excused as the Cowboys rolled out Kellen Moore, Matt Cassell, and Brandon Weeden for 13 starts after Tony Romo was injured twice during the season, but the team 2-11 in those 13 starts and the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs despite a strong performance on the defensive side of the football.
The Cowboys saw an offense that finished fifth in the NFL in points in 2016 decline each of the last two offseasons and Linehan has been continually criticized by analysts, fans, and players as well.
Many believe that the reason that Dez Bryant and Brice Butler weren't brought back in the offseason was because of the public criticism of the offense and the play caller instilling the offense and that criticism has carried over to this season when Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper acknowledged that the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting on the slant routes that they had run all game. Dak mentioned that he changed Amari's route to a go route, which led to a 75 yard touchdown that helped open up the offense.
Cole Beasley has been frustrated with his role for much of the season and deservedly so. He was often non-existent in the offensive game plan until the final five minutes of football games.
In the running game, the offense had become too predictable and reliant upon jumbo formations that led to Ezekiel Elliott having to run against eight in the box anywhere from 25-30% of the time. For perspective, Todd Gurley only ran against eight-man fronts around eight percent of the time. Scott Linehan never looked to attempt to take players out of the box, instead insisting on motioning more players into the box for the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to run against. It's amazing when you think about it, that Ezekiel Elliott was able to win the rushing title when facing loaded fronts as often as he did.
This was a move that needed to happen and the Dallas Cowboys didn't need to waste anymore time to make it happen. The offense had become stale and frustrating for the players as well as the fans. While Jason Garrett started the offseason saying he "didn't expect any changes," this was a move that absolutely had to happen for the offense to take a step forward. Below, you can read Jason Garrett's announcement on the move.
Cowboys have fired Scott Linehan
Even after the move for Amari Cooper, the offense looked better, but it still struggled at times to move the football.
The Cowboys have a young team with especially young players on the offensive side of the football. They have a quarterback who can throw from the pocket, but has excellent movement skills and capabilities of throwing the ball on the run. He's an excellent runner on designed runs. Despite us knowing all that, Scott Linehan looked reluctant to use him on designed quarterback runs that weren't read options or speed options. What you saw on designed runs in the Seattle game is what this team should be doing five times a game.
Now the question becomes, who should the Cowboys next offensive coordinator be? Our own, Staff Writer Brian Martin, laid out 5 Options to be the Next Offensive Coordinator earlier this week. I suggest you give it a read.
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
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