We have talked a lot about the high levels of production that the Dallas Cowboys received in 2023 from a handful of players, notably quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb.
Conversation is hardly positive these days around head coach/play-caller Mike McCarthy, but it is undeniable that he elevated the floor of offensive production in his first season running the show. While Prescott and Lamb had career years, there were many other players who showed up and showed out throughout the season and tight end Jake Ferguson had arguably the next-best season after Prescott and Lamb.
Ferguson experienced career highs all over the place which is hardly saying something given that 2023 was only his second season in the NFL: however, he more than filled the void left by Dalton Schultz and turned into a tried and true middle-of-the-field weapon that Prescott utilized to great success.
NFL.com named Jake Ferguson as the ‘unsung hero’ of the Cowboys in 2023
With all but four teams now done for the season there is a lot of looking back happening across the NFL and media landscape and this week saw NFL.com do that in one specific way.
They decided to pick an ‘unsung hero’ for each team which is what it sounds like. We are talking about players who were significant contributors for their squads that may not have been expected to be. While Ferguson had his believers around BTB prior to the 2023 season, it feels safe to say that even the most optimistic person did not envision what we saw. He was the Cowboys’ pick if that is not obvious.
Dallas Cowboys: Jake Ferguson, TE
Is it possible to be overlooked when you play with a star on your helmet? Anyone with a glimmer in Dallas is probably making a Pro Bowl or All-Pro roster. So let’s use this opportunity to highlight Ferguson’s play. The second-year tight end exploded for 71 catches and 761 yards with five TDs, ranking in the top 10 in each category among tight ends. Ferguson finished second among Cowboys pass catchers in targets (102), catches and yards while ranking fifth among tight ends in receiving yards over expected (113), per Next Gen Stats. Ferguson combined the ability to find open gaps in the defense with stellar run-after-catch performance (430 YAC, sixth-most among TEs). He proved he’s a keeper.
Unfortunately for Ferguson, this is one of the only honors he received as, contrary to the blurb here, he was not named a Pro Bowler or All-Pro. You can certainly make the case that he deserved it.
It is important to acknowledge that what we have seen from Ferguson to this point in his career is relatively unprecedented in franchise history. To date Ferguson has played 33 games for the Cowboys and he trails only Jason Witten in terms of production through the first 33 games of a career with the team.
First 33 games with the Dallas Cowboys
- Jason Witten: 183 targets, 127 receptions, 1,374 receiving yards, 7 receiving touchdowns
- Jake Ferguson: 124 targets, 90 receptions, 935 receiving yards, 7 receiving touchdowns
This is certainly great company for Ferguson to keep. Given the incredible work he saw from a volume perspective this past season, it stands to reason that he will continue to be an important part of the passing game with the team. That they are getting that much production out of a fourth-round pick is pretty impressive (the second-round pick tight end on the roster on the other hand, well, that is a subject for another day).
In terms of other unsung heroes a strong argument could have easily been made for Brandon Aubrey given the remarkable rookie season that he had. Outside of that, Ferguson seems like the most logical choice.