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Did the Dallas Cowboys improve at tight end in 2017?

Did the Cowboys find improvement at the tight end position?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Minicamp Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

[After an incredible rise from worst to first in 2016 that saw the Cowboys ride the backs of two outstanding rookie campaigns to 13-3 and a changing of the guard, we have to examine the roster. From 1 to 53, we only have one question?

Have the Dallas Cowboys improved?]

As we chug along through the offseason, we have found ourselves at the tight end position. Did the Cowboys find any improvement there?

Last Season:

Jason Witten (started 16 games, 69 receptions, 673 yards, 9.8 YPC, three touchdowns)

Geoff Swaim (played nine games, started six games, six receptions, 69 yards, 11.5 YPC, IR in November with torn pectoral)

Gavin Escobar (played 16 games, four receptions, 30 yards, 7.3 YPC, one touchdown, signed one-year $850K deal with Chiefs)

James Hanna (bone-bruise put him on PUP, second surgery in November put him on IR)

Rico Gathers (drafted in sixth round, practice squad for 2016)

Austin Traylor (offseason only, with Broncos currently)

This Season:

Jason Witten

James Hanna

Geoff Swaim

Rico Gathers

Connor Hamlett (one season with Browns, one catch, 17 yards, touchdown)

Blake Jarwin (UDFA from Oklahoma State, played 12 games, 19 receptions, 309 yards, two touchdowns)

It goes without saying that the Cowboys have been extremely lucky to have such consistency come in the form of Jason Witten. Bob Lilly will always be Mr. Cowboy but Jason Witten can be Mr. Cowboy 2.0 as he’s always finding a way to be productive.

The most unbelievable thing about Witten is the longevity in his career, he keeps pushing forward and he always seems to be on the right side of a few memorable moments. The “Dak-Scramble” in OT of the Hallow’s Eve game with the Eagles comes to mind. The way he got himself open and bailed out the quarterback is a testament to who he still is after 14 seasons. You can also go back to the game against the Bengals where he stiff-armed a defender so hard he might as well buried him three feet in the turf. Jason Witten is just a complete player and he’s still playing the game at a high level.

James Hanna and Geoff Swaim are in the same boat and that’s the injury boat. We hear rumblings that they’re ready to go in training camp. With that said, Swaim really showed something last year and he became a productive player. He should be recovered from his pectoral and foot injuries for the preseason and could carve out a bigger role moving forward. To be honest, the James Hanna injury is much more serious to think about. Cowboys’ fans know what a bone bruise usually ends up bringing on, and the hope is that Hanna can avoid that procedure in the future.

Connor Hamlett has been a guy that Bryan Broaddus has liked throughout the offseason process. He’s good at making himself available in practice and maybe he can break through during the preseason because he’s going to play a lot. Blake Jarwin hasn’t been as successful as Broaddus has called him a liability in blocking, we’ll continue to monitor him as camp sizzles on through the end of the summer.

The real story here is Rico Gathers, who has been making strides from where he was the last offseason. This is a guy who had to re-learn how to play football but he’s competitive and plays with an angry spirit. Gathers has all the athletic gifts in the world but this training camp and preseason will be very important for him.

Conclusion: Much like at linebacker, this position hinges on one player. Swaim and Hanna can be nice pieces to have but nobody possesses the potential of Gathers. If Gathers breaks through to the 53-man roster, it’ll be huge for the young man. The Cowboys need to find a tight end they can start giving more opportunities to in the future. They’ve been unsuccessful thus far but that’s because Jason Witten cannot be unseated. He’s earned the “Gold Jacket Witt” nickname from his teammates.

Gathers has been following him around all offseason but will that translate to success during the preseason? The potential for improvement is there because the Cowboys got better with Gavin Escobar leaving in the offseason. It’s time for some youth to break through.


Did the Cowboys improve at tight end in 2017?

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