With training camp weeks away, it’s a good time to start breaking down the Dallas Cowboys roster position by position to see what this 2021 bunch will look like and which players are competing to make the team. Dallas had a lot of injuries a year ago, forcing a number of young players and reserves to step into more prominent roles. They also drafted 11 players, meaning there will be a ton of competition for the final roster.
In addition, America’s Team will be doing this in front of the entire world, since they were chosen as the featured team on HBO’s Hard Knocks. With that being said, let’s take a look at the tight ends vying to make the 53-man Dallas Cowboys roster this year.
Dallas Cowboys Roster Breakdown: Tight Ends
The Locks | Dallas Cowboys Roster
Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
The tight end position is one of the more flexible spots on the Cowboys’ roster coming into this season. For starters, Dallas does not have a ton of money invested in the position. However, the potential is there for them to have two players that are proven weapons in this offense.
Last year was supposed to be Blake Jarwin’s breakout campaign, with Jason Witten no longer dominating the snap count. Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury in the first game, putting an end to his season. Still, when healthy, Jarwin is a dangerous receiving threat that can stretch the defense or gain separation with his intermediate routes. He also has enough speed to be a factor after the catch. If he returns to form, Kellen Moore’s offense can take advantage of his skill set, especially considering Dak Prescott’s return will see a significant uptick in the use of run-pass options.
Schultz steps up
Having said that, Dalton Schultz was the one to have a breakout season in his absence. The fourth-year tight end finally came into his own in 2020, proving to be a similar possession target like Witten was for so many years.
The result was Schultz becoming the fourth tight end in Cowboys history to record 60+ receptions in a season. The best part about his emergence is the stark difference between his playing style and Jarwin’s.
For years under Jason Garrett, the Cowboys loved using two tight-end sets to help establish their run-first identity. However, with a new coaching regime and the addition of CeeDee Lamb, it was difficult for Dallas to keep one of their big three receivers off the field last season. Still, it’s a terrific problem to have, and while Jarwin and Schultz may not be the flashiest of tight ends in the NFL, they are capable of having plenty of success in 2021.
However, the lack of long-term commitment to a pair of proven commodities at one position gives Dallas plenty of flexibility. In this past draft, rumors swirled about the Cowboys’ interest in Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. A rare talent at the position, many thought he could instantly improve an offense that was well on its way to being one of the best in the league before Dak Prescott’s injury. Obviously, Dallas was hoping for a top defender, but as we saw with Lamb before, you can never predict when a top prospect will fall in your lap.
Because Dallas was not committed to either Schultz or Jarwin long-term, we had nothing stopping the Cowboys from taking Pitts had he fallen to No. 10.
Possible Trade Chip?
This flexibility could also play into Dallas’ favor in a trade. Let’s be honest, this defense still has some holes. If there was a team out there with a surplus of proven edge rushers or defensive backs, it’s hard to argue that a tight end might not be the Cowboys’ top trade chip.
Schultz and Jarwin are inexpensive options, and both have a track record of success in the NFL. Still, neither is so proven that they would cost top-dollar to extend for a trade partner. Yes, I’d love to keep both in place for the season, but once again, how often does Dallas want to line up without all three of their top receivers in the game?
Trading one could net an extra defender for Dallas. A situation I am monitoring is the one in Buffalo. They’ve spent three top picks on defensive ends in the last two drafts and still have Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes under contract for one more year. They have also been linked in trade discussions with Philadelphia tight end Zach Ertz but could not reach a deal. If those young pass rushers have a good camp, it makes someone like Addison expendable.
One of these tight ends could net us a veteran pass rusher that would be a serious upgrade over someone like Dorance Armstrong. Plus, we can’t forget that Randy Gregory is one slip-up away from a suspension. Once again, I’d love to keep both on this team, but this offense will not be the issue in 2021, whether both are on the roster or only one.
Dallas Cowboys Roster Breakdown
Fighting for Third Job | Dallas Cowboys Roster
Jeremy Sprinkle, Sean McKeon, Nick Eubanks, Artayvious Lynn
If, indeed, both Jarwin and Schultz are on this team when the season starts, it means this third spot will have a lot of competition. Jeremy Sprinkle is a big blocker with plenty of size, and he won’t be 27 until next month. If this team is only going to carry three tight ends, you can be sure that blocking will be the primary requirement for that job. In that case, Sprinkle has the upper hand on the competition.
However, I’m not going to count out Sean McKeon, who found a way to make this roster as an undrafted free agent a year ago. This coaching staff obviously saw something in him to warrant keeping a fourth tight end in 2020. He was more of a blocker at run-heavy Michigan, and a full year in the offseason program could have put on the extra bulk to give him a fighting chance to push Sprinkle for the job. I’ll add that McKeon’s college teammate Eubanks has a similar background and could also force his way into the competition for this spot.
Room for a Fourth?
The good news for everyone in this group is that Dallas made it clear a year ago that they aren’t afraid to carry four tight ends if they see future upside in someone. Yes, it was only one week before Jarwin was injured, and McKeon became the third tight end.
Still, the proof that the Cowboys held him in high regard was their unwillingness to let him see the waiver process following the final cuts. If McKeon (or one of the undrafted players) proves to have a bright future that requires development, Dallas may choose to go with four players at the position this fall.
Practice Squad Options | Dallas Cowboys Roster
The Dallas Cowboys saw fit to keep a fifth tight end on the practice squad last year, which should offer hope to guys like Eubanks and Lynn. Of course, the two will have to prove worthy of keeping around, but I don’t think keeping a fourth tight end lessens the chances of adding one to the practice squad.
For Eubanks, that’s likely to come from what we see from him as a blocker. He only had 45 career receptions in his four years playing at Michigan that spanned 36 games. Lynn didn’t have much production as a pass-catcher at TCU either, reeling in only 22 career passes. Still, he displayed some impressive athleticism at his pro day that left some wondering if his best football is in front of him. If that athleticism can show up in training camp, he could prove to be a developmental piece worth placing on the practice squad.
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