[After that disastrous 2015 season, that saw the Cowboys go 4-12 thanks to the injury bug, we are going to examine the entire roster from top to bottom and ask:
Have the Dallas Cowboys improved?
That may seem like a loaded question but in terms of looking inside and out and taking every variable into the equation that question can be answered. Do you believe that the Cowboys improved from one year to the next?]
When it comes to tight end, there wasn't necessarily a need at the position as Jason Witten is a perennial Pro Bowler. However, there is a need for depth outside of Witten and James Hanna, who was re-signed in free agency, plus they are dealing with some injury. So it really depends on how you visualize the position, they needed improvement at depth, did they do that?
TE1- Jason Witten (77 receptions, 713 yards, three touchdowns, 34-years old.)
TE2- Gavin Escobar (only had 8 receptions, tore Achilles tendon in Week 14, placed on IR)
TE3- James Hanna (used mainly as a blocking tight end, caught nine passes in 2015)
TE4- Geoff Swaim (appeared in four games, only 1 reception, was drafted in 7th round of 2015)
TE1- Jason Witten
E2- Gavin Escobar (PUP candidate, surgery took place in December)
TE2- James Hanna
TE3- Geoff Swaim
TE4- Rico Gathers (extremely raw talent selected in sixth round of 2016 Draft)
TE5- Austin Traylor (undrafted free agent, uphill battle to make roster)
The one true improvement was in keeping James Hanna on the roster. His contribution to the running game has been seldom talked about but the Cowboys really need him. He's going to be an important cog of the Cowboys' running game plans this season. He adds value to the team on special teams as well and has been a core member since coming to Dallas.
When it comes to Escobar, we'll just have to wait and see. Achilles tendon injuries take a while to come back from but I wouldn't expect Escobar to be ready when the season starts. He's likely going to be on PUP to start camp and the season. He may even need to be placed on IR-designated to return, meaning he's out for quite a while. Geoff Swaim will get some reps while Escobar is out and the Cowboys did like him enough to trade back into the seventh round in 2015 to get him.
Now, the Cowboys wouldn't be the Cowboys without drafting a tight end in seemingly every draft. This year, they took an extremely raw athletic basketball player in Rico Gathers. He's certainly got everyone a little excited about his prospects as history shows guys have come from basketball backgrounds to stardom in the NFL. Julius Peppers, Jimmy Graham, Martellus Bennett, Julius Thomas, and Antonio Gates have all done well in the NFL.
Austin Traylor was a workout invite to the 90-man roster, but he'll face an uphill climb to stick around unless he balls out in training camp and can play special teams. Jason Witten, what is there more to say about the 10-time Pro Bowler and likely first-ballot Hall of Famer? He is the reason that the Cowboys cannot seem to get a tight end developed, but who cares?
Witten is not going to stop pursuing his ultimate goal in helping this team win a Super Bowl. Also, it's pretty hard for the younger guys to stand out on a team with all this offensive weaponry. Witten is the ultimate pro on and off the field and has become Tony Romo's security blanket.
So, did the Cowboys improve at the position?
Like we said before it all depends on how you look at it but wouldn't it be awesome for someone like Gathers to catch on early?