Editor’s Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players’ impact last season and how each fits into the team’s 2015 plans. Today’s Roster Rundown entry features tight end Jason Witten.
Name: Jason Witten
Position: Tight End
Experience: 12 seasons
Key stat: Technically speaking, 2014 was a down year by Jason Witten’s lofty standards. Despite that, this past year he passed Shannon Sharpe to become No. 2 all-time among tight ends in receiving yards. If he maintains his yearly receiving average of 875 yards, he could conceivably climb as high as the top 15 in all-time receiving yardage.
Contract Status: Signed through 2017
2014 Impact: Still one of the most respected players on this squad, Witten is looked up to by all as one of the faces of this franchise. You would be hard pressed to find a player in the history of the club that has been as clutch as he has been during his career. He might not be the player he once was as a down field threat, like he was earlier in his career, but has found other ways to contribute to the success of the offense. When DeMarco Murray had success running the ball, it was generally behind the work of Jason Witten. You would be hard pressed to find a tight end in the league that is better than Witten when it comes to capturing the edge. He’s crafty in the way he positions himself and the way he uses his leverage and strength to sustain the block. He shows the ability to adjust on the move and the sense to hold the block until he knows the ball is past him. Had a slow start to the season as a receiver but in true Witten fashion, he was there when the chips were on the table. Doesn’t have the
speed and quickness he once had but still knows how to work himself open and avoid coverage. Still one of the best in the league when having to make the contested catch. Still shows the ability to make those catches to grab first downs. Is not going to drop a ball if he can get his hands on it. Knows how to play in the red zone to find space. Has a special knack of making plays in this area.
Where He Fits: Father Time has yet to lose a game and Jason Witten is doing his very best to keep him at arm’s length. His commitment and attention to detail have allowed him to continue to play at a high level, even in these final years of a Hall of Fame career. The desire and passion are still there — even though his down field skills might be down a touch. Still finds ways to get open and catch the ball. Has developed new ways to help the team with his blocking, which I felt was the best I had seen in his career. Expect that he will still be a major contributor to the success of the offense in 2015.
David Helman: It’d be easy – and lazy – to look at Witten’s stats and say he had a down year by his Hall of Fame standards. His 64 catches for 703 yards were his lowest totals in both categories since his rookie season, way back in 2003. That’s more of a testament to how the Cowboys played football in 2014 than any perceived drop by Witten. Dallas was a run-first team, and Witten was a pivotal part of DeMarco Murray’s NFL rushing crown. The Cowboys averaged 4.6 and 4.9 yards around the left and ride end, respectively. When the Cowboys did throw, Witten was ever-present, as usual this past decade. Witten trailed only All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant in targets and receptions, and he was crucial in pivotal plays like the famous 4th-and-6 conversion during the go-ahead drive against Detroit. Witten’s role might have diminished slightly, but it seems more a result of the talent around him than a drop-off.