There’s significant overlap between a flexed out tight end and slot receiver, so it’s fair to say the Dallas Cowboys are at least partially making Blake Jarwin their new slot receiver
On Monday the Dallas Cowboys simultaneously allowed slot receiver Randall Cobb to leave and re-signed tight end Blake Jarwin to a 3-year extension. Given the overlap between the two positions, the Cowboys effectively replaced their slot man with a pass-catching tight end.
They may look and sound like very different positions, but the reality is there’s not that much of a difference between a big slot receiver and a flex/vertical tight end. And that’s basically what Blake Jarwin is. He’s not the Dallas Cowboys’ typical “Y” tight end who lines up on the line (like Jason Witten). He’s the guy that often motions out and lines up like a receiver.
Big slot is a position we hear about often these days. Deviating from the traditional “water bug” mold, big slots win with a combination of size and spacing. Big slots aren’t as quick as their diminutive brethren, so they usually don’t get the same degree of separation. But that doesn’t make them any less effective. It’s quite the contrary, really.
A big slot can be every bit as effective on the short and underneath routes because of their sheer size, but they can also bring an added presence deeper down the field (especially down the seam). Because unlike the vertically challenged water bugs they’re replacing, big slots/flex tight ends present a big target downfield.
Expanded Role for Blake Jarwin
Committing money on a pass-catcher like Blake Jarwin says a lot about what the Dallas Cowboys are planning. Upon McCarthy’s installation as head coach, I spoke of the similarities between Blake Jarwin and McCarthy’s most successful tight end, Jermichael Finley. It’s easy to see the likeness between the two and simple to envision Jarwin exploding in Year 1 of Mike McCarthy here in Dallas (see linked article at the bottom of the page).
Something we’ve touched on in the past is how important a big slot is for offenses that utilize run-pass options (RPO). In RPOs, quarterbacks are asked to make lightening-quick decisions based on how the defense reacts. If the defense dictates the offense should pass, having a big target available between the numbers is pretty important.
I broke down everything the RPO entails a while ago. I even used Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense as an example. For more on that check out the article directly below.
Just because Blake Jarwin has been with the Cowboys for a while, doesn’t mean his role in 2020 won’t significantly grow. Jason Witten is likely gone and McCarthy loves lean pass-catching TEs.
Slot Receiver is still a Need
This isn’t to say the days of Cole Beasley-like slot men are gone in Dallas either. It would be shocking if Mike McCarthy didn’t bring in a smaller route-runner who thrives at creating separation inside.
Just because I expect Blake Jarwin to take on a significant role next season, doesn’t mean I think the Dallas Cowboys are going to suddenly abandon 11 personnel. Expect Dallas to lean on 3-WR sets just as much, if not more, than ever before.
If we’re being honest, Randall Cobb wasn’t the prototypical water bug slot either. Nor was he a big slot. He was basically a slot in the body of a third-down running back. He didn’t thrive on positioning like a big guy or on separation like those quick little guys. He was different. And as such, I don’t expect him to be seamlessly replaced by anyone.
Blake Jarwin is going to take a chunk of his opportunities, and a platoon of others will take the rest. I mocked the Dallas Cowboys to draft one of those guys just a few days ago. And if we pause to assess internal talent, we can see we have viable options on the team already.
It’s a good feeling knowing Blake Jarwin is locked in at tight end and that he’s able to pick up some of the slack left in the wake of Randall Cobb’s departure, but it’s an even better feeling knowing the Dallas Cowboys are in the market for a top-3 receiver in one of the richest receiver drafts we’ve seen in a long time.