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Roster Rundown: Witten Effective Despite Dip In Stats
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 2014 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features tight end Jason Witten
Name: Jason Witten
Position: Tight End
Experience: 11 seasons
Key stat: Witten’s 73 catches was the fourth-lowest total of his 11-year career, and his first time below 79 catches since 2006.His 857 yards on the year was also his lowest output since that 2006 season. However, his eight touchdowns was the second-best tally of his career, trailing only his nine-touchdown season in 2010.
Contract Status: Signed through 2017.
2013 Impact: The numbers will say it was a down year for Jason Witten, but that just goes to show you how high the bar is set for him each season he takes the field. Before the start of training camp, we had heard from Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett that there was going to be a much greater focus on getting these Cowboys tight ends on the field in “12” personnel formations.
With the hold overs of Witten and James Hanna plus the addition of Gavin Escobar, it appeared to be a plan that would have made perfect sense. What we learned as the season progressed, however, was that the offense did a much better job out of “11” personnel with the three receivers on the field along with Witten. What this did prove is despite all his years of service in the league, Witten is still the type of player that these offensive coaches believed in -- but also that he was a weapon that defenses still had to prepare for.
Where I thought Witten made the biggest impact was how he was used in the red zone. I have always believed he was the perfect mismatch player and there were times in the previous seasons where these coaches went away from him. But it was very clear in training camp that Bill Callahan as the play caller was more committed to get Witten involved once again.
I have seen every season that Jason Witten has played in this league and many of these up close and personal, and his greatest strength is not his hands but his ability to run routes. Any time you can get Jason Witten in space, he’s going to make a play.
There is just too much knowledge in his head of how to set defenders up with his routes and in the red zone, he was going to make defenses pay. It was nice to see him once again being used in this role.
Where He Fits: Witten might not have the speed and quickness that he did when he was drafted out of Tennessee but through the years, he has become more of a thinking man’s tight end and this has allowed him to still play at such a high level.
There are always ways that he is trying to improve his game in the offseason and it was always interesting to ask him about those improvements before camp opened, then watching him work on those specific areas as camp progressed. There will be a day that Jason Witten is no longer be a part of this team but that time doesn’t appears to be anytime soon. There are still several good years left in that future Hall of Famer’s body.
David Helman: Much like Bryan said before me, it would be easy to criticize Witten’s dip in production in 2013, but that just serves to emphasize how high the expectations are for him. When you’re trying to find fault with 70 catches, 857 yards and eight touchdowns, it’s a pretty good indicator that you’re dealing with a great player.
That said, you can argue that Witten disappeared at times in 2013. In 16 games this season, Witten was held to fewer than five catches 10 times. He was held to fewer than 50 yards in nine different games. So it was definitely possible to limit his effectiveness.
He still showed plenty of production, though, particularly against division foes. He tallied 330 yards in the six division games, and he scored half of his touchdowns against New York, with two in each win against the Giants.
Ultimately, you have to consider it a successful season. And as Broaddus mentioned, he showed flashes in the redzone. But the All-Pro could still be utilized more, even while playing at a Pro Bowl level.