Last year, Dalton Schultz had to be the Cowboys' top tight end because of an injury to Blake Jarwin in Week One. But he's held that spot in 2021 despite Jarwin's return, and Schultz's numbers have him among the league's best tight ends so far this season.
The competition, if there ever was one, seems to be over between Jarwin and Schultz. Over Dallas' six games this year Dalton's played on 74% of the offensive snaps to just 51% for Blake. Schultz has been targeted 37 times as a receiver while Jarwin has had just 14 passes thrown his way.
But while the gap between the two tight ends is wide, Schultz isn't far behind CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper in terms of the passing game. He's been Dak Prescott's third-favorite target, trailing the star receivers by just six attempts.
Give Dalton's big role in the Cowboys' top-ranked offense, it shouldn't be a surprise that he's also been one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL so far this year.
Dalton Schultz is currently 6th in receptions, 4th in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, 3rd in yards per route run and first downs, and 2nd in missed tackles forced among TEs this year. #Cowboys
— John Owning (@JohnOwning) October 22, 2021
What's been especially noteworthy with Schultz in 2021 is his efficiency as a receiving target. Though only 7th in targets among NFL tight ends he's 4th in yards, 5th in catches, and tied for 4th in touchdowns.
Of course, Dalton benefits from being part of such a balanced and star-studded offense. Teams are naturally more worried about the wide receivers and Ezekiel Elliott, but Schultz has made them pay for any lack of respect many times this season.
With his contract expiring after the season, Dalton is building incredible momentum for free agency. That's putting the Cowboys in a tough spot of having to decide how much they think the player or their overall offensive prowess is responsible for Schultz's success.
Dallas may ultimately decide to let Dalton walk this spring, turning back to Jarwin as starter and perhaps addressing the TE position through the draft. They may feel that any adequate player could put up the same numbers given the same opportunity.
That's a problem to figure out later. For now, there's no question that Dalton Schultz has been an important part of this number-one offense and the 5-1 record that Dallas currently enjoys. He's making the most of the opportunity during a contract year and the Cowboys are benefitting just as much as he is.