Cowboys Elder Statesman Jason Witten: Will The Senator Begin To Slow Down In 2012?

We know you are #1 Jason, but for how much longer can you play at that level?

No name exemplifies the RKG motto more than Jason Witten. When Witten retires, it will be a sad day in Dallas. Hopefully that is a day that doesn't come for a very long time. Having a tight end of his caliber does so much more for the offense. It gives the quarterback a safety blanket and is a good form of a blitz buster. Witten's versatility is also beneficial to Jason Garrett and how he can call a football game.

The tight end position is starting to become the "new" trend in the NFL. Teams are looking for athletic tight ends who can stretch the field and become a nightmare of a match up for opposing defenses. Witten doesn't have the athleticism or speed of the new breed of tight ends headlining the league right now, but he gets it done week in, week out. That doesn't mean he isn't athletic, because Witten is a great athlete, but he is an even better football player.

Jason Witten is becoming the Cowboys' "elder statesman", the Senator. His nine years of experience make him the most tenured player on the roster and the lone remaining player from the 2003 Cowboys draft class. He is a great teammate and leader. Witten is one of the few players on the team who is very vocal, and when he speaks, people listen to what he has to say.

What is starting to become concerning is the lack of playoff success the core group of this football team has had. During his entire nine-year career with the Cowboys, Witten has experienced just one playoff win. When I actually think about it deeper, it makes me sad. This man deserves some playoff success with his team. He has earned tremendous success as an individual player, but this is a team game. Jason Witten wants to win a Super Bowl, but for how much longer can he produce at the level we have become accustomed to?

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Before we get into some serious discussion about our future Hall Of Fame tight end, I wanted to highlight some of his achievements.

  • 7 time Pro Bowler (consecutively)
  • 2 time First-Team All-Pro
  • 696 receptions
  • 7,909 yards receiving
  • 41 TD

Father time is beginning to catch up with our beloved tight end. Jason turned 30 years old on May 6th, happy birthday Jason! I am not saying he will immediately fall off the face of the planet, but for how much longer can we expect him to put up 90 some receptions, 1,000 some yards and 6-10 TD? It isn't crazy to expect some sort of drop-off in production since he is on the wrong side of 30 now.

I love Witten just as much as any other Cowboys fan does, but I am trying to stay somewhat realistic about my expectations of Witten going forward. It would be devastating to the offense if he instantly fell off, but that shouldn't be expected. What we may see is a drop in receptions and yards. It is possible that his touchdown numbers would spike upwards because we need to start using him more in scoring situations. That is one area I will never understand about the Cowboys offense. They need to use Witten more in the red zone, we do not use him enough down there.

Speed has never been Witten's game, but he is beginning to slow down. I began to notice last year that it took him longer to get up-field after securing the reception. Witten has always looked "slow", but his lateral quickness is really starting to come to a halt. He still does a fantastic job in the open field once he gets going. When he can open up his second and third gear, Witten can fly, but it's the first gear that looks like the issue.

There are a few areas that he will never have trouble with. He is one of the best route runners at his position. Because he is such a smart football player, it may extend his career. Witten has some of the best hands on the team. Over the years he has made clutch grabs when we needed a big play.

Witten should continue to produce later into his career like Tony Gonzalez has done. One of the reasons why many do not think the #3 wide receiver on the roster is that important is due to Witten's impact as the second option on the offense. Witten recently touched on the subject of the #3 wide receiver position.

"What Laurent did doesn’t happen every year," Witten said this week in Grapevine at the Cowboys annual golf tournament. "They don’t have to be Laurent. They need to be a good receiver for us, and that’s all we need. We’ve got a lot of weapons. They don’t need have to be more than that."

"They have to understand what the position entails, and it’s not just coming in on a third down and making a catch," Witten said. "It’s a huge role, and if Miles or Dez goes down, you have to step in and fill that. I think we’ve got the right guys, and collectively, we’ll get it done."

The wide receiver position has concerned me ever since Laurent Robinson left in free agency, but I do feel a little more comfortable with what we have on the roster after reading what Witten had to say about the depth the Cowboys have at wide receiver. Having Witten does take the level of need for a #3 wide receiver down a notch, but Garrett runs a lot of three wide receiver sets. The slot receiver will still play a large role for this team.

Witten is a smart guy and he realizes the importance of winning now.

"You try not to think about the window," Witten said. "But obviously, we're realists. We understand where it's at. I feel great and we're playing great. But it's about now. I think that's how this whole organization thinks, from owner to head coach to veteran players to rookie players. That's the way this league works."

How much time do the Cowboys have? I would say that they have a two to three year window of opportunity. It's a shame that Jason Garrett wasn't promoted to head coach sooner because the changes he has made are the step in the right direction.

The Cowboys have a core group that consists of Witten, Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff. What bothers me as a fan is that each player is right in the prime of his career. Witten points out that the time is now, and I have to agree with him. The window of opportunity to contend will close soon for the core group of this football team. It would be a travesty to see a player such as Witten never hoist the Super Bowl trophy, but not every great player in this league will have that honor.

Follow me at ArchieBTB

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