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Cowboys news: Why Dallas will show more creativity on offense in 2018

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Your Monday morning Dallas Cowboys links.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Jarwin? Geoff Swaim? Dalton Schultz? Which Cowboys TE will be the Week 1 starter? - Jon Machota, SportsDay

Who will be the immediate successor to the GOAT?

Question: So the Cowboys reportedly like Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim is now the “veteran” of the tight end group, Dalton Schultz was drafted and Rico Gathers has tremendous upside. Which one do you think ends up as the week one starter?

Machota: The favorite of that group has to be Swaim. He’s the only one to catch a pass in an NFL game. I expect Jarwin and Schultz to play often as well. Rico Gathers is the wild card. He could take a huge step this season or he could still be a ways away from contributing as an every down tight end.

If he can become better in the other aspects of the game and the coaching staff feels more comfortable with him on the field, Gathers has the greatest upside of the group. He has the ability to be a big time weapon in the passing game.

Cowboys: Without Witten we could see more creativity on offense - Reid Hanson, SportDFW

While the Jason Witten retirement certainly hurt, could we see a more creative scheme in the new era? Hanson gives four reasons why the offense could be more creative in 2018.

Having a Pro Bowler like Jason Witten comes with an obligation. If he’s ready and able to play – you play him. Jason Garrett’s offense soon became a slave to Jason Witten’s legend. And much the same way they felt obligated to play Dez Bryant every chance they could, they felt the need to play Witten every snap possible.

This obligation damned them in the creativity department. No matter what personnel package the Cowboys used, a tight end was sure to be involved. Whether it was 11 (1 TE, 1 RB, 3 WR), 12 (2 TE, 1RB, 2 WR), or 13 personnel, you can bet a digit greater than zero populated the second numerical field. For better or for worse, that’s because of Witten.

Sans Witten, the Cowboys can explore all knew personnel groups. Even the much talked about but never employed ‘10’ personnel group.

How losing Jason Witten hurts the most - Shane Carter, Inside The Star

Despite all of the GOAT’s accomplishments on the gridiron, his loss may actually be felt the most in the locker room,

Perhaps Jason Witten’s biggest contribution was his leadership on and off the field.

Witten’s passion for winning has always been there. Whether it was getting in the face of Dez Bryant for messing up, or hugging Tony Romo after a game-winning touchdown, Witten’s presence was there.

On the field, Witten not only was a vocal leader, but a leader by example as well. I don’t know if there’s a better example of this than the famous play of Witten getting his helmet knocked off against the Eagles and he kept running. It had become obvious to every Cowboys fan the type of leader Witten was, and his teammates have benefited from it.

Zach Ertz shows utmost respect for Jason Witten - Jeff Kerr, 247Sports

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz is/was a big fan of Jason Witten.

Zach Ertz took the time to describe the profound impact Jason Witten had on his life in an emotional farewell to one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history. The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys may be rivals, but long before Ertz even took a snap for the Eagles, he looked up to Witten as a moniker for how to play the tight end position.

Why isn’t Rico Gathers being touted as Jason Witten’s successor? - Matt Mosley, SportsDay

What about Rico Gathers?

Question: Is there a reason that Rico Gathers is not being touted more as a successor to Jason Witten? Rico Gathers has impressed when given an opportunity in pre-season. The injury last year was a setback, but he almost seems to be written off. Which brings up another criticism of Dallas coaching, how will we know how good a young player is if they don’t play?

Mosley: The Cowboys completely failed with Martellus Bennett. That’s why Jason Garrett had to encourage his brother John to go find another gig. The Cowboys have run through seven or eight TE coaches during Witten’s time, maybe more.

They haven’t given up on Gathers, it’s just that he had lingering concussion issues. I think he’s really talented, but he didn’t play college football. There’s such a huge learning curve for him. And the Cowboys want someone out there who can block. The Hanna retirement is probably a lot bigger than we’re playing it.


10 things to know about new Cowboys QB Mike White, from his baseball roots to his confidence - Staff, SportsDay

In this article about new QB Mike White, we learn he certainly doesn’t lack confidence.

But White sees himself as much better than that. In an interview with NBC Sports Washington at the Senior Bowl, White said he sees himself being the No. 1 pick in the draft.

”If you ask me I see myself going No. 1 overall,” White said. “That’s just sort of the confidence I play with and it’s how I was raised. But I just honestly want to go to a good situation, I want to go somewhere with a good offense and smart guys around me, with some talented dudes around me. Maybe somewhere I can learn behind a veteran or somewhere I can start Day 1. I’m a competitor and that’s what I want to do, compete.”


Moving on to the defense, on which the Cowboys spent 24 of their 35 draft picks (69%) between 2004 and 2017.


How many sacks will LB Leighton Vander Esch tally his rookie season? - Dane Brugler, SportsDay

Nobody knows each draft class better than Dane Brugler. Here are a couple of takes on LVE.

How many sacks will Leighton Vander Esch finish with in 2018?

Brugler: I wouldn’t expect a high number here, but it will depend on his role. Anthony Hitchens played primarily the MIKE linebacker spot the last two seasons and had only 1.5 sacks in 2016-17.

If they let LVE see snaps at the SAM then he might get more opportunities, but part of the appeal with LVE is his ability in space or reverse. He’s outstanding in coverage so we’ll likely see Jaylon Smith blitzing or pressure coming from other players while LVE is dropping, tracking and looking to make plays in coverage.

And...

What’s your post-draft evaluation of the Cowboys defense?

Brugler: Optimistic, but it will take some time for everything to gel. Vander Esch has a very bright future, but it is asking a lot to plug him in at MIKE and expect him to take over games. I think he’ll get there, but it will be a gradual process.

Lawrence still has plenty to prove on a one-year deal and the second-year players (Taco, Jourdan Lewis, Awuzie, Xavier Woods) should be improved with a full season under their belt.

Why this year’s Cowboys draft wasn’t a complete failure - Dane Brugler, SportsDay

Brugler also wrote on why the Cowboys’ draft wasn’t a failure — despite not drafting a safety or defensive tackle.

Why wasn’t the Cowboys’ draft a complete failure? Some fans aren’t liking the picks.

Brugler: Not everyone will be happy with the haul, but all things considered, I like what the Cowboys did. They upgraded at LB, OL and WR. With so many need areas entering the draft, we knew they wouldn’t be able to address each one.

If the Cowboys went with a free safety in the 3rd round, some fans would be upset they didn’t do more at receiver. So I understand why some question what the Cowboys did, but all things considered, it was a positive step for the organization in a pivotal offseason.


Report: Booger McFarland joins MNF as “field analyst” - Mike Florio, PFT

It looks like Jason Witten will be getting some analyst help on MNF.

When ESPN first leaked to ESPN the news that Cowboys tight end Jason Witten was planning to retire and join ESPN, the specific language in the report — that Witten would be “a lead analyst” on Monday Night Football — suggested that the team could consist of more than Witten and play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore. And indeed it will.

Richard Deitsch of TheAthletic.com reports that ESPN will add Booger McFarland as a “field analyst” on the broadcast.