Film room: Can Cowboys use Dalton Schultz like a premier NFL tight end? - Nick Kehoe, The Dallas Morning News
A big year for Dalton Schultz could be on the horizon.
It’s fair to question whether or not Dalton Schultz is the Cowboys’ long-term answer at tight end. But given the turnover at wide receiver, it’s also fair to say that Schultz is an important piece for at least the 2022 season.
Schultz had a break-out year in 2021, hauling in a career-high 78 receptions for 808 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s a reliable and trusted pass-catcher on a receiving corps that Dak Prescott will need some time to develop chemistry with. I’d be lying if I told you Schultz is the next Travis Kelce or that he can move like Darren Waller (if he was, he’d have been locked up by the Cowboys by now). The question is, can he be used in a similar fashion?
Schultz spends most of his time in traditional tight end alignments, either in-line or flexed out in the slot. But could he be utilized effectively in other ways this season? Should he see more time, for instance, as a boundary X-receiver to the backside of a 3x1 formation, similar to how the Kelce’s and Waller’s of the world are often used?
By the way, it appeared that Dallas was trending in this direction toward the end of 2021. In fact, Schultz spent as many snaps aligned out wide in his final seven games as he did in his first 11, an increase from 6.3% of his offensive snaps to 9.8%, according to Pro Football Focus. Is this a reliable trend we’re likely to see more of this season? Or just a small-sample-size anomaly? Either way, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Dallas to mix in more looks with Schultz aligned out wide in 2022.
In addition, the Cowboys have signaled this offseason that they are looking to play bigger on offense. From allocating resources away from the wide receiver position to using their first pick of the draft on a mauler to play left guard, it’s clear Dallas wants to be more physical. That could include using more two tight-end sets, which would mean more looks for Schultz out of the play-action game in particular.
Jourdan Lewis to date is still very underrated although the numbers say otherwise.
The Dallas Cowboys were believed to be an offensive juggernaut, and proved themselves worthy of such accolades early in the 2021 season. But the defense was a question mark after how they plummeted to among the league’s worst performers in the one season under coordinator Mike Zimmer. Dan Quinn’s mid-season firing from the Atlanta Falcons as head coach allowed him a few months to reinvent himself as a defensive coordinator, and the Cowboys were both sly and fortunate to bring him into the fold.
The difference, fueled by the selection of unicorn Micah Parsons in the first round of the draft, was evident at all three levels. That includes cornerback where ascending star Trevon Diggs turned in a franchise record 11 interceptions. Teams didn’t shy away from throwing at Diggs, though, because the options elsewhere weren’t enticing either. A lot of that had to do with the play in the slot of fifth-year man Jourdan Lewis, who was recently ranked the third-best at his role by Doug Farrar of Touchdown Wire.
It was a long road to this level of respectability for Lewis, who suffered from a lack of playing time in his sophomore season after Kris Richard took over the secondary. Whether it was a personality conflict or the passing-game coordinator’s disdain for Lewis’ size at 5-foot-10, the former third-round bargain out of Michigan started just six games in the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
He’s started 13 in each of the last two years under Nolan and Quinn, and made the most of his 817 snaps in 2021.
Lewis finished the season with three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. As far as his coverage, he ranked No. 38 in Cowboys Wire’s Adjusted Net Yards per Coverage Snap (ANY/CS) metric this past season. However Lewis’ sure tackling and run stopping, despite his diminutive frame, has always been a plus part of his game at a position where business decisions are often the norm.
Will one of these three have an unexpected big season in 2022?
3. Quinton Bohanna, DT
In the last two seasons under head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, the Cowboys have made it a priority to bolster their defensive tackle position with big space eaters. An example of that was Quinton Bohanna, who was drafted in 202 as a big-bodied space-eater who the Cowboys wanted to bring in to help clog the middle and affect the opposing teams running game.
2. Sean McKeon, TE
All of the talk around the tight end group for Dallas is focused on the negotiations with TE1 Dalton Schultz. Will they or won’t they sign him to a new deal? In addition to all of the drama with Schultz, the Cowboys also added rookie Jake Ferguson in the 2022 NFL Draft.
1. Josh Ball, OT
When Dallas took Ball last season, many were questioning the pick based on his past off-the-field issues. While warranted, we shouldn’t count him out in terms of making a difference on this team.
Does Dallas really need Julio Jones at this stage in his career?
As of just a few days ago, the Cowboys sat third in the Julio Jones week one team odds according to bookies.com. Green Bay Packers are first at +325, then the Colts at +350 followed by the Cowboys at +550, so right around a 15% chance of it happening.
It does make sense. Dan Quinn, the defensive coordinator for the Cowboys, was once Jones’s head coach in Atlanta. In 2019, after the Falcons started 1-and-6, Jones spoke out for Quinn, “This man has done everything for us… it’s on us… it’s not on Q,” Jones said.
Although Quinn would not be coaching Jones directly as he did for many years, if they still have a solid relationship, it might be worth Dallas just looking to explore.
Bringing Jones in if the price is right and would be willing would be something I would not mind (this is what I would be worried about with Dallas). No matter the injuries he has battled or not when Jones takes the field teams pay attention.
There is a very little chance of a sophomore slump for this phenom.
The rookie season of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons was something just short of miraculous. Parsons wasn’t just the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, but in legitimate Defensive Player of the Year conversations all season as well. Steelers edge rusher TJ Watt won the AP Defensive Player of the Year award, but Parsons came second in voting and received more nominations than Aaron Donald.
The rookie phenom fell just 1.5 sacks shy of the rookie sack record with 13 sacks, despite not even being drafted anywhere along the defensive line. Additionally, Parsons boasted the highest pass rush grade in the league and forced three fumbles. Parsons displayed his pass-rushing versatility as well, harassing opposing quarterbacks from both the edge and as a linebacker.
Nonetheless, when ranking Parsons the top linebacker, CBS Sports didn’t focus on Parsons’ pass rushing, but primarily, his versatility.
“Parsons is versatile, smart, and instinctive. You don’t do what he did in his rookie season if you aren’t a star,” CBS wrote. “Versatility is needed at the linebacker position, and his versatility is the reason why Parsons comes in at No. 1 on our list.”
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