Dallas Cowboys: How much does Jason Witten Improve the TE position?

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Will the return of Jason Witten revive the tight end position and boost the Dallas Cowboys passing game to the next level?

The tight end position suffered mightily last season for the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they lose all-time great Jason Witten to the broadcast booth, but they lost long-time TE2 James Hanna as well.  Because of these loses, Geoff Swaim was forced to move up from TE3 to TE1, simply by default. It should be no wonder why the position took a step back.

After an unsuccessful attempt in tackling TV, Jason Witten is now back in Big D. And after essentially ignoring the position in free agency and the Draft, everyone is looking to Witt to elevate the position to where it once was. But is that being realistic? How much can we expect Witten to upgrade the TE unit in 2019?

Last season the Dallas Cowboys TE position declined significantly. Prior to Blake Jarwin’s Week 17 explosion, the unit only provided one touchdown from 88 targets on the season. It’s safe to say, the TE group finished at or near the bottom of the league in multiple categories.

Because of this, it’s almost laughable to question whether or not a Hall of Famer like Jason Witten provides an upgrade. Witten is a nuanced route-runner and reliable blocker. While he certainly can’t operate up to the level he once did, he never makes mental errors and is always in position to make the play.

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Some fans want to criticize Witten for his inability to gather yards after the catch, but that hasn’t been part of his game for quite a while, if we’re all being honest. Yet, #82 has found a way to be consistently useful in the passing game, week in and week out.

Standing 6’6” 263lbs, Jason Witten gives Dak Prescott an enormous target right smack dab in the middle of the field. He’s always exactly where he’s supposed to be – something that wasn’t always the case from the TE position last season.

He’s the safety valve Dak Prescott so desperately needed last season. With Witten gone in 2018, Dak often went to Ezekiel Elliott in those situations. But Zeke’s position puts him at a sizable disadvantage. As a safety value, Zeke was often at or behind the line of scrimmage.

And as we pointed out last week in the article here, Zeke was one of Dallas most ineffective pass-catchers last season. Witten may not offer the dynamic ability, stunning yards after the catch, or flare for the impossible that Zeke does, but Witten knows where to curl off his routes to get the first down.

The Dallas Cowboys aren’t going to catapult into the top of the league in their TE play simply by reinserting Witten. But Witten moves the unit from the cellar into the main floor And more importantly, offers Dak Prescott a more desirable safety valve option when all else goes wrong.

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Jason Witten’s return moves the Dallas Cowboys TE corps from well below average to average. If the Cowboys want to improve any more than that, it’s probably going to come down to the development of Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz.

  • Published on 07/02/2019 at 12:26 PM
  • Last updated at 07/02/2019 at 12:26 PM