Dallas Cowboys: Will Rico Gathers get a fair shake at tight end?

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 12: Rico Gathers
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 12: Rico Gathers /

The time for Rico Gathers to prove himself is running out – will the Dallas Cowboys ever give him a chance to earn a roster spot?

The Dallas Cowboys drafted Rico Gathers in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft. At the time, the former Baylor hoops player hadn’t played football since middle school. But his impressive skill set and raw ability were too good to pass up so the Dallas Cowboys invested in the project of all projects.

Since joining the Cowboys, Rico has flashed just enough to excite the masses. Fans and media have been abuzz despite very little supporting evidence. Hope is a powerful thing and with a ceiling sky-high, Rico Gathers provides hope in spades.

The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff isn’t quite as high. They’ve seen infinitely more than the rest of us and they appear to be his biggest critics. Nearly every time Rico comes up in discussion the Cowboys deflect or re-direct. For better or for worse, they want to talk about Blake Jarwin more than Rico Gathers. More on that here:

Related Story: Why Blake Jarwin is the TE we should be watching

Not only are we lacking on-field evidence of Rico Gathers’ progression, but we’re also lacking any clear opinion from the Dallas Cowboys coaches and/or front office. Lucky for us, Rico has been speaking up, and speaking out, at minicamp.

His words provide solid insight into his situation with the Dallas Cowboys. A concussion forced Rico onto IR before the season even began last season. According to Rico, he was ready to come back by mid-season but the Cowboys opted to leave him on ice.

It’s clear Rico Gathers thought he could contribute and the Cowboys thought otherwise.

Word out of the Star has long stated Rico is too raw and too unpredictable when forced to adjust to the defense. His ability to execute the right blocking assignments is in question. As his ability to read coverage and adjust his route accordingly is also in doubt. Failure to execute a block can lead to a negative play while failure to run the right route can end in a turnover. If he really is lost in his assignments the apprehension from the coaching staff is understandable.

Gathers’ work ethic doesn’t seem to be endearing him to the Cowboys brass. Tight end is a complicated position because it requires full involvement in both the running and passing game. Not to mention it involves making mid-play adjustments according to how the defense reacts to the play.

Will he get a fair chance?

With Jason Witten now gone, and no true pecking order intact, the opportunity is clearly now. Even if the Cowboys coaching staff doesn’t particularly like Gathers, you can bet they’ll give him a chance to prove himself. Highlight plays will not get it done. Rico needs to show an understanding of the offense. He doesn’t need to be a “complete” tight end like Witten was, but he needs to be a reliable piece.

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Time is ticking on Rico in Dallas. The Dallas Cowboys need tight ends to step up and Rico Gathers will be given a chance to prove himself. But if he can’t prove the mental side of things, they won’t give him a chance to prove the physical side.