Tight End Dalton Schultz, entering his third season with the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, went into training camp without a clear role or identity with the team. But a little over a month later, he is now the starter and just had a huge performance to help Dallas pull off their stunning comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons yesterday.
Schultz was the next man up after Blake Jarwin was lost for the season with an ACL injury last week. Last week against the Rams, Dalton was targeted only four times and produced one catch for 11 yards.
Many were clamoring for the Cowboys to make a move at tight end this week. Whether it was signing veteran free agents like Delanie Walker or Charles Clay, moving WR Noah Brown to the TE position, or even trading for a familiar face like Geoff Swaim (Titans), the idea of just riding with Schultz wasn’t satisfying.
But even with the limited information we got out of training camp in 2020, and especially with the absence of preseason games to evaluate, Dalton was still a guy that we heard good things about. He did enough in camp to take a firm hold of the second spot on the TE depth chart even after Dallas signed veteran Blake Bell, who won a Super Bowl as Travis Kelce’s backup in Kansas City.
Yesterday, starting his first game as the Cowboys number-one TE, Schultz had nine catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. It not only helped Dallas mount their big comeback over Atlanta but also went in the books as one of the biggest productions days by a Cowboys tight end in recent history.
Jason Witten didn’t have a single game last year with as many catches or yards as Dalton Schultz put up yesterday. In fact, you’d have to go back to Week 2 of the 2017 season for Witten’s last statistical performance that bested Schultz (10 rec, 97 yds, 1 TD vs Denver).
Even if you combine Witten and Blake Jarwin’s stats from 2019 you will only find a couple of games where they collectively put together stats that rivaled what Schultz did on Sunday.
Granted, it was only one game. This certainly isn’t any kind of assertion about the kind of player Schultz is now or will ever be compared to a legend like Witten.
But with his performance yesterday, Dalton Schultz gave the Cowboys a glimpse of potential like Blake Jarwin did in the 2018 finale. If it hadn’t been for Witten’s surprising return last year from retirement, Jarwin was likely going to be handed the starting TE job in 2019 just like he was this season.
Now Dalton has all of 2020, with a contract year coming up in 2021, to prove what he might offer the Cowboys as a long-term option. And if yesterday’s game was any indication, Schultz could be in for a career-changing season.
Remember, this was a guy who we’d heard almost nothing from since being selected in the 4th Round of the 2018 NFL Draft. After just 12 catches in his rookie year, Schultz was buried in 2019 under Witten and Jarwin and only had a single catch for six yards.
Yesterday gave Dalton his first career touchdown in the NFL. And with opposing defenses having to focus on stopping Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps even Dak Prescott when the Cowboys get near the endzone, Schultz is going to get plenty of favorable matchups and opportunities to score.
Of course, and as was already admitted, yesterday may have just been an anomaly. Dalton may never have another game close to this one, and perhaps he doesn’t even see that fourth season of his rookie contract. This can still go in a very different direction; just another one-game wonder who fantasy owners will soon be waiving as quickly as they rushed to add him.
But if you believed in Blake Jarwin this year based on his fairly small sample size then Schultz just made a big leap towards providing similar evidence. And unlike what Jarwin has contended with the last few years in Witten and Swaim, there’s no threat of Blake Bell horning in.
You can stop looking up free agent tight ends and crafting other creative ideas. For the rest of 2020 at least, the starting TE job in Dallas just became Dalton Schultz’s to lose.