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Broaddus: Questions At Tight End Don’t Really Involve Witten
I have to admit, there was a great sense of pride for me in that New Orleans game standing on the sideline when Jason Witten broke Tony Gonzalez’s single season reception record. For the way that the year started out for Witten, there was no guarantee that he would even have 50 catches for the year. Witten in my mind is like what Darren Woodson was for this team for so many years, a player whose desire to win but more importantly to do it the right way is above anything else. There is a term in scouting called a “Pro’s Pro” which is the highest compliment you can give to a player.
No matter what the situation, good or bad, that player will handle himself in a manner that will always represent the team in the highest regard. Jason Witten is clearly a pro’s pro in the way he carries himself on and off the field. For all the times I butted heads with Bill Parcells, he had the absolute right vision for this player and I give him credit for that. Maybe Witten’s greatest trait is his ability to play with a sense of urgency. When I watched him play this season, you see that on display with every snap. There still is that ability to get up the field but also to work underneath between the hashes. He might not have the burst or separation that he once had but he has developed some crafty moves to buy him more space. When it comes to “Hot” reads and understanding what defenses are trying to do, he is the quarterback’s best friend. When I look at Witten, I still see some tread on the tires just because the way he prepares each season to get his body ready to play.
The question this off season will be if the Cowboys decide to bring John Phillips back because he is an unrestricted free agent. I personally don’t think they will. I believe that they will roll with James Hanna and look to draft a better version of Phillips in this upcoming draft. There are things that Phillips was able to do but in games down the stretch you saw more of Hanna because of his athletic ability and the way he was able to handle routes from the slot and down the field. The biggest question I had about Hanna coming into this season was his ability to catch the ball. I studied a player that was really a 50-50 catcher with some questionable drops but it was clear in Oxnard that he was much better than that. From my sources that studied practice all season, Hanna was unstoppable working against the first defense and with Orton. Where Hanna will need to develop is as a blocker when he does play inline or as a true “Y”. His effort, desire and technique were good, he just needs a little more snap in his game. I really do believe you will see a big jump in his game from this season to the next.
There is no doubt in my mind that this Spring, this scouting department will add a tight end through the draft to work with Witten and Hanna. It might be a player that has some point of attack blocking ability to help in the running game but it is an area that they will address.