It’s safe to say the 2019 season has not had many bright spots for the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas came into the season as a potential Super Bowl contender and now sits with a record of 6-7 entering Week 15. One player, though, has been a pleasant surprise in a rather disappointing season is tight end Blake Jarwin.
After Jason Witten retired in the 2018 offseason, Jarwin was tasked as one of the guys who would help replace his production in the offense. When starter Geoff Swaim went down in the middle of the year, Jarwin was given the starting spot for the rest of the season. In the last seven games of 2018, Jarwin hauled in 27 catches for 272 yards and three touchdowns (granted much of that occurred in the final game of the season).
The young tight end was taking advantage of the opportunities he was given, and looked like he could be a solid pair with another young tight end if Dallas took one in the 2019 NFL Draft. Those plans were foiled when Jason Witten came out of retirement and returned to the team.
The return of Witten saw the Cowboys go without drafting another tight end, and running back the same trio they had in 2018, just swapping Swaim for Witten.
The return of the veteran tight end has hindered Jarwin’s opportunity to get on the field. So far this season, Witten has played 76% of the Cowboys offensive snaps and caught 53 passes for 455 yards. This season, while playing just 37% of the team’s offensive snaps, Jarwin has caught 28 passes for 311 yards, an average of 11 yards per catch. Witten has a 5.6% drop rate while Jarwin has a 2.8% drop rate, Witten has a 2.6 YAC rate, Jarwin is at 4.4 (source: pro-football-reference.com).
NFL offenses are clearly trending away from the traditional tight end that Witten is at this point in his career. Look at the best players at the position in the league. They are all athletic and can make plays down the field, just like Blake Jarwin.
Last week against Chicago, Jarwin made some very nice catches on passes that were not in great spots.
Jason Witten is a sure fire first-ballot Hall of Famer. He will be inducted into Canton one day no doubt, but right now he is hurting the Cowboys’ offense more than he is helping it. When Jarwin is on the field, the Dallas’ offense is more spread out, giving their quarterback Dak Prescott the chance to use his mobility to make plays.
Numerous times this season we have seen Prescott and Jarwin hook up on plays that have broken down and force Dak to roll out of the pocket to make something happen. The Cowboys’ offense is at their best when they can use the athleticism they have at all positions to their advantage. When Witten is on the field, they just don’t have that at tight end.
Nothing is going right at the moment for the Dallas Cowboys, so why not try to make a change? Blake Jawrin has produced more than three-quarters of the yardage that Jason Witten has with 50% less targets. Get Jarwin on the field more and Witten on it less, the Dallas offense will be much better for it.