Dallas Cowboys: Developing explosive tight ends is the key

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

For the second year in a row, the Dallas Cowboys offense ranked in the top-3 in points per game. Having a high scoring offense has been the Cowboys’ calling card for several seasons and the primary reason why they have won 25 games in the last two seasons.

Super Bowl LVII featured two high scoring teams in the Kansas City Chiefs and the evil Philadelphia Eagles, and it is no coincidence that the two teams tied with the best regular season records (14-3) and represented their respective conferences in the biggest game on earth.

Both teams had playmakers that made it one of the highest scoring games in Super Bowl history. The Chiefs featured an elite tight end in Travis Kelce, and a supporting cast of JuJu Smith Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson, and Skyy Moore. The Eagles featured their unique trio of receivers/tight end in A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, followed by Zach Pascal and Quez Watkins.

The Dallas Cowboys need to continue the development of tight ends Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot to make this offense the best in the league.

Despite losing in the divisional round for the second year in the row, the Dallas Cowboys are still a relatively young team with promising players on both sides of the ball, specifically on offense.

2x Pro Bowl receiver CeeDee Lamb leads the way as WR1, along with up and coming tight ends Jake Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot, and Sean McKeon.

In all likelihood, Dallas will move on from starting tight end, Dalton Schultz, clearing the way for the youngsters to develop into the studs we know they can be. This includes other young offensive players that are in the development stages of becoming prime offensive weapons.

Rookie tight ends with a bright future, the true x factor.

One of the main reasons the front office will part ways with Schultz is because of the great potential in Ferguson and Hendershot. Unlike Schultz, Ferguson and Hendershot are great blockers that love the physical contact more than a bouncer at bar.

This two-headed tandem can be a nightmare for opposing defenses because they are mismatches for linebackers and for safeties, too. Most top scoring offenses have at least one tight end that can dominate on any given Sunday. Ferguson and Hendershot showed their capabilities with good route running and the ability to make difficult touchdown catches.

In the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Hendershot ran a wheel-route to perfection and caught a perfectly placed touchdown from Dak Prescott. The beauty in that play was Hendershot’s speed and ability to stay focused with a linebacker all over him. That is how you use your tight end as an offensive chess piece to confuse defenses.

Even though Hendershot caught only 11 passes for 103 yards, two touchdowns, and averaged 9.4 yards a reception last season, you saw the talent, and he made the best of those opportunities in some form or fashion. Heck, even the tipped interception against the Tennessee Titans showed you how well he runs a route and that he’s willing to take accountability for his mistake.

The same can be said about Ferguson, another freakish athlete that needs to be featured more next season. Ole Fergie caught 19 passes for 174 yards, two touchdowns, and averaged 9.2 yards a reception.

Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing a muscular 244 pounds and athletic, Fergie can overpower any linebacker or defensive back who covers him. Giving Fergie more targets not only makes the offense lethal, but defenses have to decide whether to play zone, man, or simply roll coverage to his side. Either way the offense wins.

The Dallas Cowboys wasted their talent at TE

With this Dallas Cowboys offense lacking any receiving threats outside of Lamb, it is totally unacceptable on so many levels for these players to NOT have been featured more on offense. Having one good tight end on an offense is what most offenses desire, but to have a collection of three is beyond a luxury that allows teams to be multi-dimensional.

This example may not be fair but it proves my point. The Chiefs believed so much in Kelce’s skillset that the offense did not skip a beat when they traded perennial Pro Bowler, Tyreek Hill, last offseason. Kelce is such a mismatch for defenses that the Chiefs only added Smith-Schuster and Valdes-Scantling as a supporting cast of pass catchers. Of course, it helps when league MVP, Patrick Mahomes, is your quarterback, too.

It also explains why tight end George Kittle makes the San Francisco 49ers such an offensive juggernaut because of his ability to create mismatches and ball out. Not only did Kittle make a nice finger-tip catch against Dallas, but he caught five crucial passes for 95 yards and was difficult to cover.

A really good tight end is hard to cover. It is that simple.

Featuring a game-changing tight end is the ultimate cheat code in today’s offensive-driven league. The more versatile play makers on offense the harder it is to defend them, even New Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick, said “you can’t cover everybody”. Belichick would know the benefit of a great tight end because he won a few Lombardi trophies with future Hall of Famer tight end, Rob Gronkowski.

And so did Tom Brady, the main reason he asked Gronk to come out of retirement and help him win his seventh Super Bowl ring with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady knew Gronk would be the primary difference maker en route to winning the Super Bowl.

A true WR1 might be the golden child of the offense because he garners so much attention from the secondary, but a dominant tight end is the bully in the backyard brawl who clears everyone out with his overall capabilities. Just ask the Eagles about Kelce (LOL).

More TEs in 2023

What gives Dallas’ offense the ultimate edge is that Fergie and Hendershot has lined up at wideouts and that is a scary scenario. Not only are they defended by smaller backs, but it is literally a slam dunk for them to complete the pass or get the corner to commit a holding/pass interference penalty.

Dallas can have a field day running 12 personnel (one RB, two TE, two WR) and 13 personnel (one RB, three TE, and one WR) with their tight ends and score at ease either on the ground or in the air. Opponents can decide their own fate.

McKeon might not have the athleticism like his teammates, but he is a supreme blocker a really good special-teamer. He had two receptions for 11 yards.

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This is not ground-breaking news but linebackers are not expected to cover supremely talented tight ends nor are safeties expected to win blocks. Just another reason why Dallas needs to go all in on the development of Fergie and Hendershot. And if they can find another talented tight end in the draft, then they should select him because you can never have enough offensive weapons.

The Dallas Cowboys will have a new offensive coordinator next season with head coach Mike McCarthy calling the plays, but this team must figure out a way to make their tight ends the true “x factor”  and difference maker on offense if ever expects to have any playoff success, let alone hoist another Lombardi Trophy.