Last year, and in this past offseason, I made a handful of comments lamenting the fact that Jason Witten was starting to creep up my list of frustrating players. His dominance in route running and blocking unquestioned, my stance was that Witten had been racking up more than his fair share of penalties and dropped passes. The thinking was that Witten might be on the downside of his career and these mental lapses would soon be followed by a falling off of his statistics. I’m happy to report that although this season is an anomaly on many fronts, reports of Jason Witten’s demise may have been grossly exaggerated, and a bit premature.
We here at BTB already know, thanks to OCC's tireless work, that Jason Witten is far and away the best combination tight end in the NFL today. Profootballfocus.com backs it up with their metrics. Paul had a great piece yesterday about the Shrinking Field, also known as the Cowboys inability to threaten teams deep without Tony Romo on the field; but Jason Witten's stats don't seem to mind. Witten leads the team over the last three games with 22 catches and three touchdowns. He leads all tight ends and is 6th overall in the league with 72 receptions on the season, and is second of all TE's in yardage with 771. Outside the stat column, he seems to be doing a better job at limiting his maddening drops and false start penalties over the last few games.
An example of how Witten is benefiting is what appears to be Garrett's favorite goal line play with Kitna at QB:
On the Cowboy’s first scoring drive, there was a series of plays where the team got stuffed trying to run it into the end zone. The first couple of runs made positive yardage, but could not get more than the storied three yards and a cloud of dust. Dallas was finally able to cross the goal line by calling what appears as Garrett’s favorite goal line option for Jon Kitna. The TE runs a drag route to the front near pylon, while the splint end on the same side runs a fade route to the back corner. The play can be called to either side of the field, and with either the receiver or TE being the first read based on the coverage. Dallas ran this same call (albeit with slightly diferent formations) on two consecutive plays in Indy to score the TD with Witten and the 2 point conversion to Roy Williams. Same routes run by Witten and Austin and Bennett and Williams.
You can check out the video of the above plays here: