Dallas Cowboys tight end James Hanna is eligible to return against the Philadelphia Eagles at home on October 30th. The team will be off this Sunday for their bye week, and then they will have a decision to make on Hanna.
If the blocking-specialist tight end is ready to practice and play, he can begin working his way back into Scott Linehan's offense. If not, Hanna will have until the end of Week 11 to begin practicing before being forced to the injured reserve. Once practicing, the Cowboys will have three weeks to activate Hanna, or he will again have to be placed on the injured reserve list or released.
Hanna was signed to a new three year deal this off season, so not only is his status on the Cowboys safe, but the element he brings to this offense will be welcomed. Shining in 2014 as part of Dallas' rushing attack, led by DeMarco Murray, Hanna was found consistently steering defenders off the edge to allow Murray to turn the corner.
Emerging at the tight end position to help in this aspect with rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott has been second-year player Geoff Swaim. While Swaim is not nearly the blocker that Hanna is, he has helped with the Cowboys' versatility on offense as a more complete tight end. I expect Swaim to still find snaps when Hanna does return to the field along with Jason Witten.
Another tight end could be on his way out in Dallas though. A roster spot would need to be cleared to bring in Hanna, and moving on from Gavin Escobar in his final season under contract makes the most sense. Escobar has never fit in offensively with the Cowboys, but did bounce back from a late 2015 Achilles tear to show flashes in training camp – ahead of schedule with his rehab.
Even still, the athletic former second round pick has not caught a pass all season for the Cowboys. Moving on from him will merely be an admission that his draft pick was wasted, and the Cowboys can then move on with the best possible depth chart at tight end.
Ezekiel Elliott: "I have yet to show the dominance at the second level…Once that starts happening, it's going to be kind of scary."
The Cowboys running game has fueled their success once again in 2016, and the hungry rookie in Ezekiel Elliott still sees room for improvement. With James Hanna back on the field as one of his blockers, Elliott will get to the second level even easier and with more speed, allowing him to continue to eat opposing defenses.
Inside The Star will keep you updated on Hanna's practice status along with any roster moves that occur in eventually activating him.