Dallas Cowboys: National Media Sleeping on TE Blake Jarwin

Blake Jarwin #89 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Blake Jarwin #89 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys are considered by many to be weak at the tight end position – they’re sleeping on Blake Jarwin

ESPN ranked the Dallas Cowboys roster as the second best in the NFL this year, but they weren’t so kind to Dallas’ tight end position. According to them Dallas has the 29th ranked tight end position group in the league. Pro Football Focus isn’t much kinder, ranking the Dallas TE corps as 25th.

It’s clear that with Jason Witten playing elsewhere, the national media isn’t very bullish on Cowboys TE stock. But those people may be overestimating Witten’s value this day and age, and underestimating Blake Jarwin’s potential impact on this Dallas Cowboys offense.

When Jason Witten unretired in 2019, Jason Garrett said he would not be a progress blocker to budding star, Blake Jarwin. Yet that’s exactly what he was last season, logging 844 snaps compared to Jarwin’s 434.

At age 37 it was clear Witten was no longer the player he once was. He was slow in and out of his routes, failed to break a single tackle all season (pause to let that sink in), and posted the lowest blocking grade of his career. Witten’s 8.4 yards per reception, 2.6 YAC/reception, and average distance of target of 6.6 were all near the bottom of the NFL for a TE1.

Jarwin, on the other hand, continued his upward rise last season. In just about every measurable advanced stat, Jarwin improved on his already-strong 2018 numbers. His yards per reception went from 10.6 to 11.8, his YAC rose from 4.3 to 5.1, his average distance of target grew from 8.9 to 10.1 and his yards per route run jumped from 1.34 to 1.82.

But even though it was clear Witten was a shell of his former self, and he was no longer even an average TE1 in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys treated him as such. Witten was targeted a staggering 82 times last year (8th in the NFL) and even finished in the NFL’s top half in red zone targets. Jarwin, the far more explosive pass-catcher, was only targeted  41 times overall and despite rating as the Dallas Cowboys top red zone weapon over the past two seasons (as per PFF), he was only targeted eight times in the red zone last season.

It was clear Witten was starting based on reputation and loyalty and not by being the best man for the job.

Here in 2020 Blake Jarwin has a chance to seize all of Witten’s opportunities and more. Jarwin may be an inferior in-line blocker to Witten, but he more than makes up for it in his ability to stretch the field, play up the seam, and collect massive yards after the catch. It’s also worth pointing out Mike McCarthy has historically preferred to his his TEs split out in the slot much more often than the previous regime in Dallas.

How good is Jarwin from the slot?

Well, despite only playing 99 snaps flexed out in the slot, Jarwin finished with the 3rd most receptions in the NFL (again, per PFF). In other words, Jarwin did a tremendous amount of damage in limited opportunities.

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Some may say there aren’t enough balls to go around in Dallas, and with the three-headed monster at receiver, Jarwin will be an afterthought on the 2020 Cowboys. But that’s ignoring Witten’s heavy target share came with Randall Cobb. And Randall Cobb was targeted over 80 times last season – roughly the same we’re projecting for CeeDee Lamb.

So simply by shifting the target share over to Jarwin we can see he’s going to have a tremendous opportunity to breakout in 2020.

Of course this doesn’t speak to the depth of the position. But TE depth is likely overblown this season because the Dallas Cowboys are expected to increase their use of 11 personnel and 21 personnel. It’s not hard to understand why either. Wouldn’t you rather get Tony Pollard and/or CeeDee Lamb on the field over Blake Bell or Dalton Schultz?


The national media may not be high on the Dallas Cowboys tight end position but Cowboys Nation sure should. This top heavy unit is going the get better in 2020 and Blake Jarwin’s the reason why.

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Blake Jarwin is the big-play machine TE the Dallas Cowboys have always wanted. Based on Mike McCarthy’s history of TE use, we should expect a different role for Jarwin this season. A role that features his strengths and minimizes his weaknesses.