Dallas Cowboys: The good news about tight end

Geoff Swaim #87 Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Geoff Swaim #87 Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

With Jason Witten now retired and a stable of undeveloped talent waiting in the wings, expect the Dallas Cowboys tight end position to fundamentally change – and that’s good news.

With no clear successor to the now-retired, Jason Witten, the Dallas Cowboys have no choice but to pivot. Some of it was planned: installing some run-pass option into their attack. But some of it is due to necessity: losing both the TE1 and TE2 in a single offseason.

Because of this, we can reasonably expect the tight end position to fundamentally change. No longer will it be a top option in the passing game. In fact, it probably won’t even be a secondary option anymore. That doesn’t mean the Dallas Cowboys will suddenly cease to use the tight end. It just means they’ll use it differently.

The Cast of Characters

The most proven player on the depth chart is Geoff Swaim. As such, the third year tight end out of Texas looks to leap from No. 3 to top dog in the pecking order. Swaim isn’t the most dynamic of weapons but he’s reliable as a blocker and occasionally useful as a receiver. But the heir to Witten he is not.

This new TE role will have a reduced impact on the passing game and that will make it much easier to adequately fill.

Behind him is a truck load of question marks. Blake Jarwin, who Jason Garrett can’t stop talking about, figures to have a significant role. In coming weeks, we’ll break that down more fully. But for now, look at him as the “move” tight end.

As a sort of H-back, Jarwin has all but secured his place as the TE2. Even if injury strikes the TE1, Jarwin’s skill set says he’s the TE2 to stay.

Dalton Schultz is starting as the TE3 but he may not be there for long. The well-rounded rookie from Stanford has the best ceiling of the three. Not to mention, he’s a smart and gritty blocker – something this coaching staff loves. If he can prove to be reliable in his reads and blocking assignments, he could earn the starting job early (again, I believe TE2 is locked down by Jarwin).

Rico Gathers rounds out the top-4 on the depth chart. Despite his vast potential, he hasn’t exactly endured himself to the coaching staff. Word is, he’s lost in his route adjustments and unreliable in blocking assignments. He can win 50/50 balls better than anyone, but he’s not always where he’s supposed to be. Keep in mind, this is the same qualities that ushered Dez Bryant out the door.

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Playing to the strengths

We should expect the Dallas Cowboys to play to their strengths in 2018. With so much turnover and so much yet to prove, those exact strengths aren’t readily apparent, but one can predict what’s to come based on personnel.

Jason Witten was targeted 87 times last season. 72.41 percent of the time he turned those targets into receptions. Expect roughly half of those tight end opportunities to evaporate. It stands to reason, the Dallas Cowboys would much rather give those balls to a player in the slot or a certain ‘web back’ who shall not be named in this column.

The YAC those types of players can provide are head-and-shoulders more than what any of the TE options Dallas has at their disposal. Additionally, the slot and ‘web’ positions should get ample opportunity in the Dallas Cowboys’ RPO.

 Good News

This should all be seen as extremely good news to Dallas Cowboys fans. Already tasked with replacing Dez Bryant as the WR1 and starting X, the Cowboys have their work cut out for them. The last thing they need is to replace a future Hall of Famer in Jason Witten.

The role that Witten played is dead. The new TE will have a reduced impact on the passing game and that will make it much easier to adequately fill.

Next: The one thing the Cowboys still need

We needn’t worry too much about tight end because the tight end the Dallas Cowboys need is not the tight end that just walked out the door. The offense is going to be different in 2018 and that’s good for a number of reasons.