The Dallas Cowboys have gone through many changes throughout the offseason. So many changes that we need to go back and take a look at what these changes were and what the Cowboys are doing to adjust to them. This “Out with the Old, In with the New” series will go through the players lost in the offseason and the players the Cowboys have brought in to compensate for those losses.
We will also take a look at the coach changes, mainly the head coach and defensive coordinator, and how they are different in the way they coach their players. Finally, ending the series with and overall comparison of the offensive and defensive schemes, and how they are different.
So let’s kick off the series with one the biggest name lost in terms of Cowboys history, Jason Witten.
The Old - Jason Witten
Seen by many as the best tight end to ever take the field for the Dallas Cowboys, Witten’s toughness, leadership, and ability to make the big play are three things that he will always be remembered for. Not to mention the records he currently holds - most career receptions (1,215), most career receiving yards (12,939), and most receptions in a single game (18). Witten proved to be a valuable piece of the offense no matter the scheme or the quarterback throwing him the ball.
Even though it looked at times like he was running in sand, Witten always showed a knack for getting open against defenders. His favorite route, the Y-option route, was a medium-depth route that gave him the ability to choose to either break inside or outside depending on how the defense is lined up and the man covering him is playing him. That route became his bread and butter for 15 seasons in the NFL.
For all the good things Witten did for the Cowboys, he also hurt them in regard to the young tight ends the Cowboys would bring in for him to mentor. Instead, Witten’s competitiveness would drive him to make sure that those young players wouldn’t take away from his time on the field. It also helps when you’re pretty close to the head coach, but now the Jason Garrett is gone, Witten had to find another team thanks to the hiring of new head coach Mike McCarthy who is fond of more athletic tight ends. Father Time had robbed Witten of most of his athleticism.
All good things eventually come to an end and that time came this offseason for Witten and the Cowboys. Especially after the emergence of tight end Blake Jarwin the last two seasons.
The New - Blake Jarwin and Blake Bell
The departure of Jason Witten now opens the door for Jarwin to step into the role he seems naturally ready for, the more athletic, play-making tight end the Cowboys have been trying to find since drafting Martellus Bennett back in 2008. Jarwin’s ability to beat defenders up the seam with his speed is an upgrade over the methodical approach Witten had to trick defends.
His athleticism also give the Cowboys more options when creating plays for Jarwin, allowing him to move around and get better matchups. Last season Jarwin showed that he was ready to take over, and we know that when the younger player is capable of doing the job, the veteran is on the chopping block. The Cowboys saw it as well giving him a new contract this offseason and at the same time letting Witten walk in free agency.
But that wasn’t the only thing the Cowboys did to make up for Witten leaving in free agency, they also signed former Chiefs tight end Blake Bell. While Bell isn’t known for his receiving prowess, he is known for his blocking skills. During his time with the Chiefs, Bell was mainly used as the blocking tight opposite Travis Kelce who was the receiving threat.
When Witten left, the Cowboys also lost their best blocking tight end and a productive receiving threat all at once, but the Cowboys already had a player waiting in the wings to take the reins on the receiving front. They also brought in another good blocking tight end to make sure they cover all of their bases.
The Cowboys have done a good job attempting to upgrade the tight end position. They are hopeful that the two Blake’s continue getting high production out of the tight end position.