Dallas Cowboys Position Reviews: Tight Ends
It appears the advertised two tight end set’s ship has sailed, so is it Jason Witten or bust?
By Matthew Postins
Tight ends: Jason Witten (starter), James Hanna (backup), Gavin Escobar (backup).
Other notable players: Andre Smith (made team coming out of training camp but was later cut).
In 2013: Witten was his usual self in 2013, having another fantastic season. He caught 73 passes for 851 yards and 8 touchdowns, marking the third time in his career that Witten has caught at least 7 touchdown passes. He saved his best for last, catching 12 passes in the Week 17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. With the retirement of Tony Gonzalez, Witten is now the pre-eminent veteran tight end in the game. Escobar had a forgettable rookie season, his forward-flip into the end zone against the Eagles aside. He caught just nine passes, two of which went for scores, and his lack of progress on the field stunted the Cowboys’ stated desire to run a two-tight end offense. One season does not a draft bust make, but the Cowboys were certainly expecting more. Hanna was the second tight when the situation called for it. But he didn’t make much progress in his second season as a receiver, catching 12 passes. As the season went on the Cowboys went away from the two-tight end set, choosing to emphasize three-receiver sets after the emergence of Williams.
Looking ahead: Witten, Hanna and Escobar are all under contract in 2014. One wonders if Jones will make hay about the two-tight end set again for 2014 or just let that sleeping dog lie. One thing is clear – Hanna and Escobar don’t add up to half of Witten at this point in their careers and losing Witten for any length of time would be a serious blow to this offense. The Cowboys need either Hanna or Escobar to make big strides in 2014.
Next up: Offensive line.