Dallas Cowboys: Will Dalton Schultz force more 12 (2TE) personnel?

Mandatory Credit: James D. Smith via USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: James D. Smith via USA TODAY Sports /

When TE1 Blake Jarwin was lost for the season in Week 1 last year, the Dallas Cowboys were left scrambling. Considered to be one of their weakest and shallowest positions BEFORE said injury, the Cowboys were hoping for a miracle.

Low and behold, they got their miracle when Dalton Schultz, the previous season’s TE3, stepped up into the lead role and kept things humming for the Cowboys offense.

How much 12 personnel can we expect from the Dallas Cowboys in 2021…

What was once seen as a gut punch ended a being a blessing in disguise in some ways. With Jarwin now back, Dallas enters the 2021 season with two viable tight ends on their roster. With fairly differing skill sets, either one could be a starter, and the option gives offensive coordinator Kellen Moore the ability to get a little creative with his personnel and formations heading into 2021.

As a position battle, Dalton Schultz seems to be leading the race for TE1 on the Dallas Cowboys this year. But things aren’t as simple as they seem. Jarwin’s skill set is wildly different and both players are likely to play different roles on the Cowboys, regardless of who gets the first snap each week.

Fans expecting a clear-cut winner could find themselves disappointed when it all shakes out. As we’ve been saying most of the offseason, we should probably expect co-starters in 2021 since the roles each player plays is so different.

With Dalton being a plus blocker but limited pass-catcher, and Jarwin being the plus pass-catcher but limited blocker, there’s a world where both players are on the field at the same time – without stepping on each other’s toes.

12 personnel is a package that features just this: two tight ends. With one whom plays primarily flexed out in the slot (Jarwin) and the other best in-line (Schultz), Kellen Moore could cause headaches for opposing defenses this year if he opts for this particular personnel package.

Between 12 personnel (2 TE, 2, WR) and 22 personnel (2 TE, 2 RB) the NFL ran a combined 24% of plays with a two tight end look. The 12 look was the NFL’s second most prevalent package, with a 51% success rate (highest success rate of 2020).

Per Sharp Football Stats, the Dallas Cowboys executed 221 plays out of 21 personnel (right in line with league average). 50% were successful (also roughly league average).

While 11 personnel was more successful for Dallas last season, Dallas didn’t have Blake Jarwin. It stands to reason, the addition of Jarwin would have a positive impact on success rate and if Moore was using 12 personnel heavily last year, he’s sure to use it just as much, if not more often, this year.


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Dallas is producing the best when they are in 11 personnel. Like most of the NFL, Dallas gets maximum EPA (expected points added) out of their 3 WR sets and leans on that look early and often. When you factor in the fact that Dallas has arguably the best WR trio in the league, it seems absurd to remove one of their top weapons for a tight end. Because as much as we like Jarwin and Schultz, neither are considered an above average NFL starter.

That’s why it would be somewhat surprising to see Moore use 12 personnel more. What we could see is a little more creativity and deception. League-wide 21 personnel led to a 53% run rate and a 47% pass rate. On the Dallas Cowboys it led to a 35% pass rate and 65% run rate.

Dallas’ wildly unbalanced approach made the 12 personnel group pretty darn predictable. If that second TE came on, chances are they were running the ball.

With Jarwin back, that wouldn’t be the case. Jarwin is a far better pass-catcher than Schultz (frankly, he’s the best pass-catching option Dallas has had since Jason Witten’s prime years), and is more “big slot” than traditional TE. Matched up against slower linebackers, Jarwin offers something Dallas didn’t have last year when they trotted out 2 TEs.

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So no, don’t expect more 2TE sets in 2021. But we should expect a more efficient 2 TE unit that’s more balanced and more deadly – and that’s certainly a good thing.