Dallas Cowboys: The blocking TE/WR is dead in Dallas

Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

For years the Dallas Cowboys have valued tight ends and receivers who are not legit pass-catching options…

There’s a new sheriff in town here in Big D and that means valued traits from before may not be valued traits today. Because of this, the Dallas Cowboys may see some major changes in roster-building philosophy this season.

One of those changes appears to be how valuable blocking tight ends and receivers are to the Dallas Cowboys going forward.

To be said in boisterous infomercial voice: Are you a tight end or wide receiver who can run block but can’t catch worth a lick? Well then the 2007-2019 Dallas Cowboys are the team for you! Here in Dallas, we don’t concern ourselves with players who produce vital tasks. If you can clog the box as a blocker and help us achieve successful runs 50 percent of the time, then you have a place on Team Garrett!

Sound kind familiar?

It should because that was basically the mentality throughout the Garrett era. The last regime loved run-blocking TEs and WRs. Heck, even if they were promising pass-catchers, Garrett buried those skills in a mountain of run-blocking assignments and counterproductive inline formations.

Remember Martellus Bennett?

The one-time Cowboys tight end played TE2 in Dallas under the Garrett offense (when Garrett was an OC). Despite showing some tantalizing skills as a pass-catcher, Bennett was tabbed as blocking-only tight end. In his four seasons with the Cowboys he was only targeted over 30 times once and he never exceeded 283 yards in any season during his Dallas Cowboys tenure.

Not only did this waste their ability to potentially make impacts as receivers downfield, but it telegraphed the offenses intentions when they got on the field.

But the moment he left Dallas he showed what he could do if given opportunities. His next three seasons, playing on non-Garrett offenses, Marty collected 626, 759, 916 yards for average yards/catch of 11.4, 11.7, 10.2. He even earned a Pro Bowl invitation in that span of being used as a pass-catcher.

WR is no different. The Dallas Cowboys have long kept receivers on the rosters who offer next to nothing in the passing game. Whether it’s Dwayne Harris, Lucky Whitehead, or Noah Brown the Cowboys have a consistent track record of using receivers almost exclusively in the running game.

Not only did this waste their ability to potentially make impacts as receivers downfield, but it telegraphed the offenses intentions when they got on the field. Harris and Whitehead were either going to run a jet sweep or be used in motion to seal off the backside of a run. Brown basically just does the latter.

But gone is Jason Garrett, the run-early/run-often coach from the dark ages. The guy who refused to let analytics (also known as “facts”) influence his decision making. The guy who never disguised his intentions and only wanted to beat opponents straight-up.

In comes coach McCarthy. The guy who bluntly stated his intentions to use analytics and success rates in his decision making with the Cowboys. The guy who values the passing game as much as anyone not named “Andy Reid”.

Could the day of the blocking-only tight end and blocking-only wide receiver be dead in Dallas?

More from Dallas Cowboys

If blocking is all you can do, then the answer is “yes”. Packing them into the box and blocking in tight formations is no-no if you follow the numbers. Running success comes from spread formations. It doesn’t matter how good you are in the running game, running into 8-man boxes (even if you have 8 blockers) is a bad idea. There just isn’t a place for one-dimensional run-blockers anymore (with a few goal line/short yardage exceptions).

The Dallas Cowboys starting tight end is no longer a well-rounded player like Jason Witten, but rather a pass-catching threat who lines up wide or in the slot (131 snaps last season according to Pro Football Focus) and is rarely asked to run block (because he’s frickin terrible at it). The back-up situation should follow suit. If Dalton Schultz or Blake Bell (whoever wins the TE2 post) can’t also be a downfield threat, his presence is a detriment to the team because he’ll telegraph the offenses intentions.

At receiver, the Dallas Cowboys happen to be loaded with multiskilled players. CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup are all strong blockers in addition to being star pass-catchers. Behind them Cedrick Wilson, Devin Smith, and Jon’Vea Johnson are all dangerous downfield threats first and foremost. You think there’s a place for the run-blocking WR Noah Brown on this team?

Run-blocking isn’t dead in Dallas but if the tight end or receiver can’t be a threat downfield as a pass-catcher, this isn’t the place for him (although I hear NY is nice in autumn).

Hot. Predicting the Cowboys 53-man roster in Week 1 of 2020. light

NFL Salary Cap to Drop from COVID-19: Cowboys Must Adjust. dark. Next

Be prepared to see some new things from the Dallas Cowboys in 2020. Personnel packages will look less transparent and players need to do more than one thing to earn a spot.

  • Published on 06/09/2020 at 11:01 AM
  • Last updated at 06/09/2020 at 09:13 AM