The OTAs and minicamp start this week for the Dallas Cowboys. As well as the first time the staff gets to see all the players on the 90 man roster work together, it also can serve as a time to try some things out. That is already the plan with La’el Collins and Jonathan Cooper as they look for the best way to replace retired right tackle Doug Free. Here’s another thing they should at least give a shot: See if Dan Skipper can play some tight end.
Given his towering 6’10” height, it is sort of surprising this has not been brought up already (at least as far as can be told from a perhaps cursory Google and Twitter search). Perhaps he just has hands of rock or an inability to run routes. But even so, the Cowboys ought to take a look to see if he could at least be a credible threat to catch the ball.
There are many NFL teams where he might not be a good fit as a tight end, but Dallas is a bit of a throwback in the way they view the tight end position: Blocking is just as important to them for tight ends as being a receiver. Many teams use tight ends almost purely for their receiving ability, but because the running game is such a big part of the Cowboys’ offensive identity, they also want their tight ends to be able to handle blocking duties well. And as a former offensive tackle, that is one thing Skipper should have down pat. Jason Witten has long been a clutch receiver, but he also is very effective in securing the edge for outside runs. Former Cowboy Gavin Escobar was a good receiver, but it was his mediocre blocking performance that likely led to him not working out in Dallas.
If Skipper can show some decent ability to catch the ball, his height would make him nearly impossible to defend with, well, just about anyone who would line up to cover him. His 26 inch vertical at the NFL Combine is not impressive, but his height and long arms make up for that, as evidenced by his three blocked field goals in college. He is not a deep threat the way many modern tight ends are, but that is not how the Cowboys primarily use their tight ends. They want them to be possession receivers, and Skipper appears to have the physical tools to do that, if he can catch at all well.
Even if he is not to be a top three tight end on the depth chart, working him some could make him a real dual-threat in a tackle eligible role on short yardage plays. And his value would be amplified by the ability of Dak Prescott to run read-option plays. Rolling out to the side Skipper is lined up, Prescott could keep the ball if the opening is there, or pull up and loft a pass that only Skipper can reach. It could also be a nice play for an option pass from Ezekiel Elliott. And lining up outside the tackle increases the chance he can bring his 300+ pounds to bear to obliterate a defensive back on running plays.
It is not a highly likely scenario to work out, but as mentioned, this is the time to experiment a bit with the tools on hand to find out just what can be done. There is not a lot to lose from trying. Skipper is fighting for a roster spot, and that is a long shot for him as an undrafted free agent. He would be expected to be willing to try whatever might give him a better chance at making the team. With his unique size, this seems like something that the staff would have to at least give a thought to.