It’s going to be interesting to see how we look back on the Rico Gathers era in Dallas.
Will he end up being a contributing player who helped the team, or will he be relegated to just a hyped-up persona who’s potential was never truly realized?
Things feel like they’re trending towards the latter these days, especially when Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said just this Wednesday that Rico has a better understanding of the passing game than the running game. This might sound like a classic backhanded compliment, but what he said about the running game matters.
The truth is the Cowboys can’t, and therefore shouldn’t, trust Rico in the run game. They’re a team with an enormous focus on the run game, they need a tight end who aids in that effort.
It stands to reason that Rico knows this is a weak link of his, in fact he outright acknowledged it. Gathers was a guest on the Doomsday Podcast and spoke about his role in the run game.
Matt Mosley: The running game seems to be where you have the most room to grow, and they keep bringing that up. Where are you in that process?
Rico: I feel like I’m right where I need to be. The running game, that’s not really my strong suit, I’m not even going to lie. I’m not going to sugar coat it. I’m pretty sure that Jimmy Graham, the running game wasn’t his strong suit too, but he’s a five-time Pro Bowler.
Ed Werder: He had like 10 touchdowns last year.
Rico: Exactly. 492 yards and he made the Pro Bowl. I think for the most part it’s one of those things you just have to work at each and every day. I feel like for a guy like me, I don’t feel like that should hold me back from contributing.
It’s true that Jimmy Graham (now a tight end for the Green Bay Packers) has been selected to the Pro Bowl five times, and it’s also accurate that he caught 10 touchdowns last year while with the Seattle Seahawks.
What isn’t true though is that Jimmy Graham had 492 receiving yards. Graham racked up 520 yards in 2017, but maybe Rico got some data confused. It happens.
It’s admirable that Rico has role models he looks to mold his game after, but the Cowboys aren’t necessarily looking for what he may think that can be. Gathers did note earlier in the interview that when the Cowboys offense struggled mightily last season (the first three games without Ezekiel Elliott) he was at home feeling like he could significantly help in the redzone.
That may very well have been true, but it’s glaringly obvious that he needs to be more at this point. Not excelling in the run game is literally what is holding him back, but it seems like Rico is focused on potentially being a Jimmy Graham-type tight end that contributes solely in the redzone.
Additionally, Rico may still be learning the fundamentals of the game of football. This isn’t a shot, it’s a reality that from an experience standpoint he’s where the rest of his teammates were in high school. It seems like that came up a bit on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer’s observations.
The bad from Gathers: During the compete period he failed to get out of bounds, forcing the Cowboys to use a timeout. Gathers had nothing but room to get out of bounds to stop the clock, but instead turned up field and was tackled. Prescott and others let him know he made the wrong decision.
Gathers certainly isn’t the first person in the history of the world or of the Dallas Cowboys to make this kind of mistake in a practice situation, but it could be a bit telling. Good for Dak Prescott being a leader and correcting his draft classmate.
Rico did note that this is a process that he needs to work at each and every day. This is a line that Jason Garrett would likely be quite fond of. Hopefully those are more than words and he puts it all together because the talent is definitely undeniable to a degree. Gathers could be the redzone weapon Dallas needs, but he has to help in the run game on top of that.