While you may not have realized it, Sean McKeon was on the Dallas Cowboys' active roster for nearly the entire 2020 season. He now heads into his second season with some big question marks ahead of him on the tight end depth chart. Could this lead to a more significant role for McKeon in 2021?
Going undrafted following his college career at Michigan, McKeon signed with Dallas and got through final cuts to make the 53-man roster. This happened despite the Cowboys already having three tight ends ahead of him; Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, and Blake Bell.
Sadly, Jarwin went down season-ending knee injury in Week One against the Rams. But even though this bumped McKeon up to third on the TE depth chart, he only appeared on 6% of Dallas' offensive snaps over the season. He was deployed on 30% of the team's special teams plays, however.
Though tall and athletic, Sean McKeon wasn't utilized much at Michigan as a receiver in a run-heavy offensive system. It's no surprise that he didn't get chances last year in Dallas either, given how many mouths there already were to feed on offense.
But as we last season at tight end, things can change quickly. Dalton Schultz was perceived as potentially not making the roster in 2020, only to emerge as a productive starter following a strong camp and then Jarwin's injury.
If the Cowboys don't draft Kyle Pitts later this month, or add any other major talents at the position, Sean McKeon is just one injury away from being the backup TE in 2021.
This may sound scary on the surface, but let's think back on those final cuts in 2020 again. Even with three tight ends already on the roster, Dallas chose to keep McKeon as well rather than risk losing him off waivers or the practice squad.
That decision says something about the perceived potential in McKeon. It's also reminiscent of when Dallas signed Blake Jarwin to the official roster in 2017 to avoid losing him off the practice squad to the Eagles.
We see how things have progressed for Jarwin since that fateful decision. Could the Cowboys see similar future potential in McKeon?
Dalton Schultz will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022. If McKeon winds up on the roster as TE3 this season, he could get more opportunities on offense as Dallas tries to evaluate him for the backup job next year.
Even if Pitts or some other TE gets added over the next few months, Schultz's potential departure puts more onus on the Cowboys to see what they have among their prospects. Last year showed us, at multiple positions, how being on the “bottom” of the depth chart still leaves you very close to significant playing time.
Hopefully for him, Sean McKeon will get more opportunities to show what he can do in 2021.