The current NFL landscape is shaped by the stars of the league. The franchise quarterback, the bell cow tailback, and the freakish pass rusher get all of the hype and notoriety — and the Cowboys are fortunate enough to have three star-level players at each of those positions.
While Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and DeMarcus Lawrence will obviously have a huge say in how good the Cowboys are in 2018, there will be other players that will be forced to step up in key moments if the Cowboys plan on making a deep run in the postseason — especially with important players like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten off the roster.
Who will step up in 2018 for the Cowboys? Here are three candidates to have a breakout season for the Cowboys offense this upcoming season.
The Jason Witten retirement undoubtedly put the Cowboys tight end position in a flux, but the coaching staff appears to like the guys that they have remaining in the tight ends room — most notably 2017 undrafted free agent Blake Jarwin.
As you recall, the Cowboys signed Jarwin to the 53-man roster prior to their meeting with the Falcons last year after discovering that the Eagles were intrigued with the Oklahoma State product. That should tell you a lot about how this organization feels about the 23-year-old tight end.
In fact, Jarwin has only continued to impress the people he needs to within the organization. Cowboys VP Will McClay is leading the charge in those that are high in the 6-foot-5, 245 pound athlete:
On 103.3 ESPN, #Cowboys VP Will McClay says he is behind the Blake Jarwin hype. So, Stephen Jones is getting his Blake Jarwin hype from McClay.— Mark Lane (@therealmarklane) May 1, 2018
McClay isn’t alone, either. Jon Machota wrote on the tight ends on the Cowboys roster, noting that no other player at the position “has received more praise”.
Outside expectations don’t seem to be very high, but Dallas’ coaching staff and front office really like the undrafted former Oklahoma State standout. No tight end on the roster has received more praise recently from executive vice president Stephen Jones.
Jones even said that Jarwin has “special upside”.
Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on @1053thefan said they still really like their TE depth despite James Hanna retiring. Spoke highly of Geoff Swaim, said Blake Jarwin has "special upside" and called Rico Gathers "a work in progress" who "has all the skills to really do unique things."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) April 20, 2018
Can Blake Jarwin take the starting tight end spot by the horns and make an impact for the Cowboys in 2018? It appears that both the staff and the front office are hoping he makes that jump.
Rookie TE Blake Jarwin pic.twitter.com/GliHOJq4Ua— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) August 24, 2017
Tavon Austin was acquired in a draft-day trade when Dallas parted ways with one of its sixth-round selections in favor of the former first-round pick. Despite a relatively disappointing career to this point, Austin’s game-breaking speed and versatility makes him a weapon with the tools necessary to give the offense a new element.
Austin, 27, has 1,689 receiving yards and 1,238 rushing yards throughout his career to go along with 21 touchdowns to his name. We’ve covered the dynamic wide receiver/running a lot here at BTB since the trade — it’s easy to see that the Cowboys are hoping Austin will give this team an edge and a more of a creative scheme.
The eighth-overall selection of the 2013 NFL Draft has the opportunity to give Dallas not only a threat in the slot, but also a change-of-pace back whenever Zeke needs a breather. Or when Scott Linehan wants to add a wrinkle. Austin’s electrifying speed makes him a threat to score at any given moment, and Dak Prescott will love finding him on third down situations.
Could #Cowboys new WR Tavon Austin actually be the new Lance Dunbar WR/RB hybrid? pic.twitter.com/DAVa4Sh75J— John Owning (@JohnOwning) April 28, 2018
The overhaul of the wide receiver position has been one of the hottest topics surrounding the Dallas Cowboys this offseason. From parting ways with Dez Bryant, to signing Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson in free agency, to drafting Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson and acquiring the aforementioned Austin, it is clear that Jason Garrett and company want to revamp the position.
The excitement surrounding the rookie Michael Gallup and the newly signed Hurns, along with the less-than-ideal offseason that Terrance Williams is having, has taken the spotlight off of some guys in the receivers room. Expect Cole Beasley to have a bounce-back campaign, but what about Noah Brown?
The 2017 seventh-round pick made the 53-man roster last season and even got on the field in 13 games, catching four passes for over 30 yards. But where Brown really shined was downfield blocking, an apsect that this coaching staff has shown that they love and value in their receivers. Look at this block against the 49ers that freed up Zeke for a highlight score:
Rookie Noah Brown's block on the edge sealed a lane for Zeke to score on the screen. pic.twitter.com/GLV9NeoFug— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) October 23, 2017
Brown is getting some opportunities in OTA’s, too, as the former Ohio State Buckeyes receiver was getting first-team reps.
Second-year WR Noah Brown got a ton of work with the first-team. Lance Lenoir did also— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) May 23, 2018
With both Dez and Witten gone, the Cowboys need a red zone threat to emerge for Dak Prescott. The 6-foot-2 and 225-pound receiver has the frame needed to box out defensive backs to create a window to throw in. If Brown can build on the experience that he gained in his rookie season, perhaps number 85 can make an impact in 2018.
Cooper Rush to Noah Brown for the TD! #INDvsDAL pic.twitter.com/lbwyjCqAlD— ✭Cowboys News✭ (@DemBoyz_News) August 20, 2017
Who are you looking for to breakout for the Cowboys offense in 2018?