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Has Father Time Caught Up With TE Jason Witten?

Brian Martin

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Has Father Time Caught Up With TE Jason Witten?

You may or may not have heard of Father Time before, but he is a mythical old man that represents time’s constant one-way movement. Father Time catches up with all of us at some point, but for professional athletes he kind of comes out of nowhere. Unfortunately, it is starting to look as if the old man has finally started to catch up with the Dallas Cowboys’ future Hall of Fame tight end, Jason Witten.

As a fan, it’s always difficult to see your favorite professional athlete coming to the end of their career. Jason Witten is probably my all-time favorite player and his professionalism both on and off the field will truly be missed by the Cowboys organization. He is an ambassador of the sport and personifies exactly what teams look for in their players.

Unfortunately, the fact that he contemplated retirement during the off-season would suggest this could possibly be the last season we see him suit up for America’s Team, despite what his new 4-year contract extension would indicate. Whether it is his desire to spend more time with his family or maybe he is starting to feel like he’s lost a step, we should all start to prepare ourselves for when he does decide to fade into the shadows.

TE Jason Witten

I personally didn’t want to admit it at first, but it was noticeable throughout the 2016 season that Jason Witten was not playing up to his normal standards.

He is noticeably a step slower in the passing game, but is still a reliable target because of his veteran saviness to create separation. His 69 receptions for 673 yards were some of the worst numbers he has put up in his entire career since entering the NFL in 2003.

He also surprisingly struggled as an in-line blocker last season. This was an area of his game where he was among the best at his position in the entire NFL, but took a noticeable step back in the 2016 season.

There were just too many times last season where Jason Witten looked a little bit lethargic on the field, which to me suggests that his age and Father Time has started to catch up to him. I’m hoping that I’m wrong, but I’m wondering if we will see more of the same in 2017.

His low production in the receiving game could be explained by the Cowboys offense focusing more on the running game, but that doesn’t quite explain everything else. It may be time for the Cowboys organization to start looking for his successor and the 2017 draft class has some pretty good TE options.

Jason Witten will not only go down as one of the best tight ends to ever play in the NFL, but THE BEST Dallas Cowboy to ever play for the organization.

I don’t know about you, but I will definitely start to appreciate him more every time he steps on the field in 2017. At the very least, that’s what he deserves from all of us if this is indeed his last season to play in the NFL.

Do you think Father Time has caught up with Jason Witten?

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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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12 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    If father time has caught up to Jason Witten then what does that say about the other te’s on our roster If the other Te’s on this roster can’t out play the old man Then we gotta problem on our hands at the position. He might have to play out the whole extension unfortunately because of the lack of TE production outside of him. I hope not

    • Brian Martin

      Travis, I wouldn’t be surprised if they drafted another TE. I don’t think they have a starting caliber TE on the roster, with the exception of Jason Witten.

  • Travis Diggs

    I hope so I been looking at Evan Engram He would be a match up nightmare in our offense

    • Brian Martin

      Engram would be a matchup nightmare in the passing game, but he doesn’t offer anything in the running game with his blocking. I don’t think is a fit in Dallas

  • Stishar

    I feel vindicated by your column as to his blocking ability last year. Hof er for sure, but there is a definite decline due to his age.

    • Brian Martin

      Jason Witten has lost a step, but he still playing at a pretty high level. I’m just hoping that he doesn’t start declining rapidly as a player.

  • Randy Martin

    Yeah I was encouraged to see the extension but in reality I know it was just to free up some cap space. Like you, Witten is one of my all-time favorite players and will miss him. I am very anxious to see how Gathers looks in camp and pre-season. I also thought Swaim was beginning to show us something before he went down last year. I think we will draft a TE at some point but I don’t feel it is paramount this season. I love Engram as well but he is not, at all, the kind of TE we would be looking for. I can see them drafting Butt in the 3rd or so but I saw recent word that he thinks he will be ready in camp. All bets would be off at that point and he could move back into the 1st round.

    • Brian Martin

      I’m also interested to see how Gathers looks, but I get the feeling he still has a ways to go. Swaim was definitely good backup but I don’t think he is a starter. The Cowboys have bodies for the position, but I don’t think Jason Witten’s successor is on the roster. I think if there is a good TE available that is the BPA, they should draft him.

  • Charles

    Hopefully our future TE’s are already on the roster. Swaim has looked good at times and Rico has the size to be a beast in the passing game as well as mowing down opposing players in the running game.

    • Brian Martin

      I really think that Swaim is a really good #2 TE, but I don’t know if he could handle the responsibilities as a starter. And I think Gathers needs more time to develop and learn the game. He could be used in certain situations, but I think he still has a ways to go until he’s ready to be relied upon.

  • dallas1966

    Rico to the rescue. I too notice a decline in witten play, in 2014, when everytime he caught the football, there was no yac. In addition, the seam routes seem to disappear, as well. With Rico, you have the threat of the deep seem route, and blocking off the edge. Remember Rico was killing it, during practice squad practice, last year. I think he is ready, training camp will be the key. Can you imagine Dez, Williams, Beasley and Rico as Dak’s weapons, along with Zeke, out of the backfield.

    The return to the glory days, yes sir!!

    • Brian Martin

      I really hope Gathers is ready to contribute, but I just don’t see it happening. I hope I’m wrong, but I think he probably needs another year to develop and learn the game. He could definitely be used in certain situations, but I just don’t think he’s ready to be a regular contributor.

Star Blog

Will Terrance Williams be Back with Cowboys in 2018?

Brian Martin

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Will Terrance Williams be Back with Cowboys in 2018?

Each offseason tough decisions have to be made by teams around the NFL, and the Dallas Cowboys are no exception. Teams have to decide who to promote, who to demote, and who to cut ties with altogether. For the Cowboys, Terrance Williams fits into one of those three categories, but which one?

It was plainly obvious that the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers all had an extremely disappointing 2017 season.

Everybody has their own opinion as to why this happened, but one thing is for sure, the Cowboys coaching staff will definitely look at ways to get more out of their receiving core. The one player who I think could be affected most by whatever decision the coaching staff ends up making is Terrance Williams.

Williams didn’t do much to make a case for keeping his starting job in 2017, let alone sticking on the roster.

To say he had a disappointing season would be an understatement.

Williams finished the 2017 season with just 53 receptions for 568 receiving yards and absolutely zero touchdowns. The Cowboys were likely hoping for more production from someone they just signed to a four-year, $17-million contract extension back in March [2017].

Now, you can make the argument Williams took a team discount in order to stay in Dallas, but that doesn’t carry much weight when your production leaves so much to be desired. This is especially true when there might be somebody on the roster who can do just as well, and possibly be an upgrade.

Noah Brown

Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Yes, if you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m talking about Noah Brown.

I know I’m not alone here, but I think Noah Brown could easily replace Terrance Williams’ production. I understand that there’s not much evidence to back up that statement based on Brown’s rookie season, but he has all the tools required to succeed.

This is really all about potential, and Noah Brown simply has more upside than Terrance Williams.

We all know what Terrance Williams is as a receiver, and what he brings to the table for the Cowboys offense. I believe Noah Brown can do all the things Williams does and has the potential to be even better.

I already think Noah Brown is a better blocker, something the Cowboys coaching staff really values about Williams. I also think Brown is a better pass catcher. He is a natural hands catcher and has a large catching radius, something Williams obviously isn’t (body catcher).

Right now, Williams is only better than Noah Brown in a few areas. He is slightly faster, he’s more advanced as a route runner, and has more experience. That’s about it.

This will obviously be a tough decision for the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff to make. But, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if we see Terrance Williams playing somewhere else when the 2018 season kicks off.

Do you think Terrance Williams will be with the Cowboys in 2018?

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Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?

Sean Martin

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Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 3

Three of the four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs — a win away from the Super Bowl — ranked within the top four defensively in yards per game allowed this season. The other is the defending-champion New England Patriots, who of course were expected to reach yet another AFC Championship game, thanks to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Somewhere between this field, losing their 2017 hopes at a deep playoff run to injuries, suspensions, and just poor execution at times, are the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys ranked eighth in yards allowed per game at 318.1 this season.

On the surface, all this provides hope that typically springs eternal around the league through the offseason.

It has been far too long since the Cowboys defense matched the skill level of the team’s offense, but Rod Marinelli’s unit (not exactly by design) outplayed that of Scott Linehan’s at times through this 9-7 campaign.

This defensive rebuild in Dallas began with the admission that this group had reached their ceiling in the offseason, as the Cowboys let long-time starters like CB Morris Claiborne, CB Brandon Carr, S Barry Church (now with the Jaguars), and S J.J. Wilcox go in free agency.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense?

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods (AP Photo / Ron Jenkins)

For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, looking to turn over an entire secondary in a division featuring Carson Wentz, Eli Manning, and Kirk Cousins as quickly as the Cowboys did was a risky move. Their confidence in hitting on draft picks paid off though.

The Cowboys’ bright future is predicated on the likes of CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Jourdan Lewis, and S Xavier Woods.

With two young starters at cornerback, the sky truly is the limit the this Cowboys defense. And they’ll play in support of an offense with more than enough talent to return to form in 2018.

As it stands now under Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys defense is built to keep everything in front of them, and get bodies to the football. This coverage-friendly approach could be taken to new heights with Lewis and Awuzie on the outside, along with Anthony Brown finding a home in the slot. All three cornerbacks have excelled at using their speed, length, and technique to get their hands on passes.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 1

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Of course, games are won in the trenches, where the idea of the Cowboys defensive line ever rising to the level of their offensive line was laughable until recently. Whether it’s with the franchise tag or a long-term extension, sack-artist DeMarcus Lawrence looks to be an all-important member of this entire team moving forward.

A healthy Lawrence was a nightmare for opposing right tackles in 2017. He earned a national spotlight each week on his way to the quarterback 14-and-a-half times. Making it look easy at times, Lawrence is a refined rusher with the speed and power to win inside and out.

The RDE position remains a sore spot in need of talent as this Cowboys defense looks to take the next step, but there’s hope for the likes of Randy Gregory, Charles Tapper, and Taco Charlton to get the job done, along with veteran starter Tyrone Crawford.

With Crawford at RDE for much of 2017, running the ball against the Cowboys front was a tall order. His ability to capture the corner against left tackles came as a pleasant surprise to many, and once in position, the defensive captain chased down plenty of plays.

Tyrone Crawford wasn’t the only pleasant surprise on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line this season.

Rookie Taco Charlton looked like an entirely different player to close a first year in Dallas that began with completely uninspiring results. Charlton — having the physical traits to play at the next level — was never a question out of Michigan.

He may never be a player to take over games for a defense, which the Cowboys couldn’t have expected to find at DE selecting 28th overall, but an improved player at DE and DT could be an incredibly valuable asset for the Cowboys in 2018 and beyond.

This leaves the Cowboys linebacker corps, where we find the best example of young potential on the entire defense. Amazingly playing in all 16 games, LB Jaylon Smith is in line to take a massive step forward in year two.

Smith closed his season looking enticingly close to the player he was at Notre Dame, an encouraging sign as the Cowboys look to become less dependent on Sean Lee on this side of the ball.

Lee and Smith paired together would give the Cowboys a middle-of-the-field presence to rival the best in the league. Both players have exceptional range and awareness to run down plays from sideline to sideline.

Anthony Hitchens, an impending free agent, is another valuable piece at LB with his ready ability to play all three positions at a relatively high level.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 2

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

Stefon Diggs racing to the end zone with no time left to send the Vikings to the NFC Championship game will be the lasting image of this past Divisional Round weekend, an offensive play that will live on forever.

A closer look at these games and the teams that survived them reveals a collective trust in defenses, a trust the Cowboys could be blissfully close to with their own young defense.

The Cowboys are likely losing one of the smarter minds behind their defense in recent years, with Matt Eberflus ticketed for Josh McDaniel’s staff, and are still in need of a secondary coach after not retaining Joe Baker. In a league where better talent typically prevails though, the possibility of the Cowboys building a championship defense for next season and beyond may not be far off.

With defenses in Jacksonville and Philadelphia providing the hope that both teams can pull off the impossible and reach the Super Bowl on Sunday, will defensive potential be enough for Dallas to get through this long offseason and start the even longer path back to their first NFC Championship game in 21 seasons?

Tell us what you think about “Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Can Rico Gathers Make Cowboys Offense More “Dak-Friendly”?

Brian Martin

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Rico Gathers, Rams

The Dallas Cowboys unfortunately face all kinds of questions heading into the 2018 offseason. Right now, there are no answers to those questions, which means we’ll just have to sit back and take a wait-and-see approach. But, one question that absolutely has to be answered is how to make the Cowboys offense more Dak Prescott friendly.

Offensively, the Dallas Cowboys had an extremely disappointing year in 2017. Suspensions and injuries are the main culprits for the disappointment, but the Dallas Cowboys haven’t really changed things much in the scheme or personnel to help Dak Prescott succeed.

The sad truth is, the Dallas Cowboys are still operating as if Tony Romo is the starting quarterback. It’s pretty much the same personnel and scheme, but it really doesn’t suit Prescott.

It’s time for that to change. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that will happen overnight.

The Cowboys spent years putting together the personnel to help Romo. Just when they thought they had the missing piece — by drafting Ezekiel Elliott, Romo sustained a back injury, pretty much ending his career.

Anyway you look at it, the offensive personnel needs to improve in order to make this team more “Dak-friendly”.

Enter Tight End Rico Gathers.

Rico Gathers

Dallas Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

The Dallas Cowboys have invested two years in Rico Gathers’ development, but with the exception of a few flashes in preseason, they haven’t benefited from the fruits of their labor. The 2018 season should be Gathers’ coming-out party.

We all witnessed what the Cowboys offense looks like when they are forced to rely on the passing game. Dak Prescott struggled to find any kind of consistency throwing the ball — with the options he had at his disposal in 2017 — while Ezekiel Elliott served a six-game suspension.

Defenses decided to take Prescott’s favorite target out of the equation by bracketing Cole Beasley in coverage. Then, they also devoted extra attention Dez Bryant‘s way, making it difficult to get him the ball.

The only other option left really was Jason Witten on simple check downs.

And that is what the future Hall of Famer has been reduced to.

Jason Witten is no longer the threat he once was. Yes, he is still a reliable target, but his age is starting to catch up to him, which has unfortunately robbed him of some of his athleticism. We will no longer see Witten stretch the field down the seam, or run many routes further than 10 yards.

That’s why I think Rico Gathers could be a difference maker in 2018, especially for Dak Prescott.

Prescott needs more than an outlet receiver at the TE position. No offense to Jason Witten, but that’s pretty much what he has become at this point in his career.

Rico Gathers on the other hand is not only different from Witten, but also provides a different skill set than any other TE on the Cowboys roster. He’s a big target with athleticism, who cannot only move the chains, but stretch the field and break tackles in the open field.

Gathers’ sheer size alone creates mismatch problems against smaller defensive backs and linebackers, but his athleticism should allow him to create separation, something which fits into what Prescott needs from his receivers.

There is no reason why the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff can’t find a way to incorporate Rico Gathers’ unique skill set into the offense. They may not truly trust him to be an every down player, but that’s not happening anyway, not with Jason Witten on the roster.

If it was me, I would have a few packages in the playbook specifically designed for Gathers. I not only think this will help him grow as a player, but help the Cowboys offense become more “Dak-friendly”.

Can Rico Gathers make the Cowboys offense more “Dak-friendly”?

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