Heading into Thursday night’s preseason finale, much of the Cowboys final roster feels like it’s set. There are a handful of spots that guys on both sides of the ball are competing for, though, and at least three of which seem to be on offense.
Arguably the most high profile of these bubble guys is former Baylor basketball player Rico Gathers. Gathers is trying to force the Cowboys to carry a fourth tight end, despite the makeup of their offense suggesting that going with three tight ends may be the right move.
Rico Gathers’ career has been interesting thus far. Attempting to translate his athleticism and overall talent onto the football field has been difficult, but Gathers’ real issues have come in other areas. He’s trying to learn the game on the fly, understand the offense and his role in it, and become a reliable enough blocker/special teams contributor to warrant a final roster spot.
Where Rico Gathers has impressed, however, is with his receiving ability. Gathers might already be a better receiving threat than any of the three “locks” to make the roster at tight end. Especially given that rookie Dalton Schultz wasn’t asked to do much receiving at Stanford, and Geoff Swaim has been in-and-out of the lineup with injury during his career.
Blake Jarwin is actually the most similar to Rico in terms of mismatch ability and downfield threat as a receiver, and like Gathers, he has issues as a blocker as well. As mentioned, Gathers is far from a lock to make the roster, and will need to show continued improvement this week.
Against the Houston Texans tonight, Gathers will get one final chance to “wow” as a receiver, but also prove that he can be adequate in other areas. If he can continue to present mismatches for opposing defenses, and give the Cowboys a legit red zone weapon, there will be spot for a fourth tight end on the final roster.
In the end I do believe the Cowboys should keep Rico Gathers on the final roster, giving them four tight ends. While he is far from polished, the Cowboys lack much “mismatch” talent in their receiving corps, and can utilize Gathers in the red zone as early as this season if all goes well.
He still has a long way to go before we can consider him a consistent and reliable tight end, but his splash ability alone gives reason to keep him around on the final roster. Dallas has already invested some time in his development, and would be wise to see it through.
Most experts see this decision going the other way, though, with the Cowboys cutting Gathers and moving on from him with just three tight ends.
Either way, fans shouldn’t lose sleep over the decision. Because in terms of the 2018 Dallas Cowboys, Gathers probably isn’t going to have much impact regardless.