The Dallas Cowboys open training camp in less than a week and there are still a lot of questions to be answered. At tight end, Jason Witten is the starter, just as he has been for the last 14 years. On offense in 2017, tight end just might be a weakness for the first time in forever.
Let me preface this by saying that there is nothing wrong with being the weak link, not on a unit like the Dallas Cowboys will send out there week in and week out.
It’s like saying that Christian Laettner was the weak link on the 1992 Dream Team that won Olympic Gold. When everyone around you is a future inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame, being a weak-link isn’t an insult to you as much as it is a compliment to the rest of the unit.
The team likes what it has in James Hanna and Geoff Swaim, but both are still trying to come back from injuries that ended their 2016 season.
Rico Gathers is making strides at the position and could be ready to challenge for a roster spot in 2017. His playing time and even his roster position are questions that still need to be answered by his play on the field. If he can prove he’s ready to handle the blocking assignments that come with being a tight end in the NFL, then we might be looking at the next starting tight end for the Dallas Cowboys. Still it’s a big “if.”
Jason Witten is one of the best all-time at his position. His durability and reliability in the run and pass game have been fixtures for the Dallas Cowboys offense for more than a decade. Age, as Brian Martin noted, has a way of catching up with everyone and we saw Witten lose a step in 2016.
It was very out of character for us to watch a game or a play and say, “wow, Witten missed his assignment on that one.” But there were times, to be frank, when that was the case.
Some of it was the way Scott Linehan would scheme him in run/pass options.
Asking a player who has never been known for his speed, quickness, or athleticism to come across the formation and block the backside pursuit is probably a poor design, yet they continued to do it throughout the year.
The ten-time Pro Bowler and two-time 1st-team All-Pro still has plenty left in the tank and can be an effective player for a Cowboys run to Super Bowl glory. On an offense that seems as stacked as it has been since the last Super Bowl era, it seems that the tight end position is a weakness.
I know that is a strange thing to say about a position group that features a future Hall of Famer in Jason Witten, but as the saying goes, “age is undefeated.”
We can count on Jason Witten to play 16 games this season. That is about as sure as sure gets in the NFL. He will likely catch 60 passes for more than 600 yards and score a handful of touchdowns.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to be good offensively, perhaps even one of the best in the league. Even great teams and great units have a weakness, though, and for the 2017 Dallas Cowboys, it’ll be tight end.