clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cowboys vs Jaguars: Jake Ferguson making his case for TE1

The Cowboys drafted Luke Schoonmaker in the second round of the draft, but he will have to go through Jake Ferguson who is planted at TE1.

NFL: Preseason-Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys let veteran tight end Dalton Schultz walk away in free agency this offseason after paying him nearly $11 million on the franchise tag in 2022. Then they spent a second-round pick on Luke Schoonmaker out of Michigan to fill that role.

But as Lee Corso would say - “NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND!” There is another player who will factor in this equation, second-year tight end Jake Ferguson, a 2022 fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin who showed plenty of promise in his opportunities as a rookie. And as he showed in the Cowboys preseason opener against Jacksonville on Saturday night, he will not go quietly in the fight to be the Cowboys primary tight end.

Playing tight end in the NFL at a high level is a hard job, you have to be able to block defensive linemen and linebackers in the run game, and run smart routes to provide easy completions for your quarterback in the quick passing game. And then if you really want to be a weapon, you have to be able to go down field and make big plays in the middle of the field through tight coverage and heavy contact. Ferguson showed on Saturday night, he’s ready to do all of those things, and if this continues, it won’t be the shiny new rookie who takes the majority of the tight end snaps for the Cowboys in 2023.

Let’s look at a few plays as a sample.

The Cowboys are in 13 personnel here with Ferguson lined up as the Y tight end, with Peyton Hendershot as a wing to his right, and Sean McKeon in the back field as a fullback. It’s 2nd and 7 after Ferguson made a catch on a stick concept on first down, and the Cowboys are running an inside zone lead play to the left, which puts Ferguson responsible for cutting off the backside edge player, in this case Josh Allen, one of the Jaguars best players up front.

Ferguson gets some help from Hendershot, but he gets his helmet to the play side, and even when Allen grabs him by the shoulder pads to keep him from reaching the second level and then tries to shed the block, Ferguson recovers quickly and maintains his position. He gets tripped by his own teammate, which causes him to lose his footing, but he executed his job well here.

On the very next snap, 3rd and 8, is prime tight end territory,

How many times over the last 20 years have we seen Cowboys tight ends, whether it be Jason Witten, or Dalton Schutlz, execute this type of play in this situation? On 3rd and medium-to-long like this, your QB has to be ready for pressure, which often means the ball is going to come out to a receiver who is at, or just short of, the sticks. Ferguson is in the slot in the Cowboys 11 personnel 2x2 spread look, and the Jaguars are showing pressure pre-snap.

They drop out of it into a zone coverage, but Ferguson recognizes it quickly and throttles down on his slant route so he doesn’t run himself out of the play. Rush feels pressure from the front side immediately, and puts the ball right on his tight end giving Ferguson the opportunity to execute exactly what he’s taught, get the ball, and get up field immediately. He is able to split the underneath defenders well enough to get across the marker and move the chains. For an offense full of explosive playmakers like CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and Tony Pollard, a guy who can be reliable to make this type of play over and over, and give those other guys another set of downs is very important.

This play is the biggest highlight of the day for Ferguson, but it’s really the icing on the cake for a Cowboys tight end. To this point the Cowboys offense had struggled to move the ball very much against the Jaguars starters, and backed up inside their own 15 they needed a big play to get going. The coverage from Jacksonville is Cover 2 (probably inverted 2 to the top side to help them play the run by bringing the safety down).

Rush picks the matchup of his tight end against the linebacker running to the post, and Ferguson makes him look smart. The ball is placed perfectly, high and away from the defenders leverage (bravo Rush), and Ferguson climbs the ladder and rotates his body to go make the play.

If he keeps this form for the rest of the preseason, Jake Ferguson will undoubtedly be the primary tight end against the Giants in Week 1.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys