By all accounts, 2021 was a breakout year for Dalton Schultz. The former Stanford Cardinal was second on the Dallas Cowboys high powered offense in both targets and receptions. He was third among all NFL tight ends in receptions and sixth in yards, posting career highs in nearly every major category.
Despite the gaudy numbers and highlight catches, Dalton Schultz’s spot within the NFL TE hierarchy is still somewhat in question. Was he a star who’s an irreplaceable cog in the Cowboys machine or was he a product of the system and beneficiary of playing the lead role?
Cowboys Nation has debated this question incessantly over the offseason and the Cowboys seem to be at a similar deadlock since they liked him enough to bring him back on the franchise tag, but not enough to offer a serious long-term offer.
Dalton Schultz was good for the Dallas Cowboys in 2021, but can he be better?
Regardless of what side of the fence you lie, everyone can admit Dalton could be better. Focused on receiving, Schultz let his blocking effort slip. He wasn’t as bad as some of his detractors claim him to be, but he wasn’t his usual tenacious self either.
It’s important to point out, blocking as a tight end is more effort than anything. In order to be effective, TEs need to be willing to commit. We saw that commitment from Schultz earlier in his career. We didn’t see it much last season.
Anyone who disputes Schultz’s ability to block should probably spend some time watching other tight ends around the league. Gone are the days of the solid 2-way TE. Nowadays we’re just looking for functional blocking ability in this sea of pass-catching slot-like tight ends.
Schultz may not have been a decent blocker by the standards of yesteryear, but in today’s NFL, he’s a capable blocker.
Is merely “capable” worth a long-term deal?
It is if you can be special as a pass-catcher. But Schultz isn’t that now, nor does he appear to have the ability to be that in the future. The former fourth-round pick is solid in every way but not special in any one way. I could argue his ability to follow blocks on screens is elite, but aside from that, he’s maxed out his physical skillset.
If Schultz wants to improve as a TE, he’s going to have to commit to the blocking portion of the assignment. Effort here seems to be the leading cause for his regression as a blocker. I don’t believe he suddenly forgot how to block this season, I just think he focused on pass-catching because that’s what gets you paid these days.
What would separate Dalton Schultz from the top TEs in the NFL (not named Andrews or Kittle)?
THAT’S where he has to get better and THAT’S where he can carve out a role in the NFL. Complete TEs are a dying breed and Schultz has seemingly maxed out his potential as a pass-catcher. If he wants to improve, it will be in his blocking effort.
The good news is, we’ve seen that blocking from him before.