IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys focus on the offseason, training camp is still in sight.
Coming off two straight 8-8 seasons and three full years removed from the playoffs, the Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding the team as they prepare for the 2013 campaign.
As we count down to camp, each day the writers of DallasCowboys.com will take a different question concerning the roster.
With 80 days until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., today's question centers on the new acquisition at tight end:
80. Will Gavin Escobar compliment Jason Witten in the passing game, or struggle to catch on like other tight end prospects before him?
Escobar was billed in draft circles as a wide receiver in a tight end's body, with glue hands and exceptional speed for his 6-6, 255-pound frame. That's an exciting weapon to line up on offense alongside Jason Witten and top-notch receivers like Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. With Tony Romo dishing the ball between the four of them, the possibilities are endless.
The only problem is we've seen this before – more than once. The Cowboys spent second round picks on tight ends in both 2006 and 2008 on potential playmakers Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett. Both players were selected higher than Witten, and both fizzled out. Fasano played in all 32 games during two years in Dallas, but he never topped 150 receiving yards in a season and was eventually traded away. Bennett showed promise in his rookie campaign before posting several duds, which saw him score zero touchdowns during his final three seasons with the team.
Escobar, selected 47th overall, was taken higher than those eventual disappointments, who both went on to find better productivity for new teams. Fortunately, the rookie was assigned No. 89, avoiding the No. 80, which both Bennett and Fasano wore.
It's easy to be hesitant about placing high expectations on the San Diego State product, given history, but game film indicates that Escobar easily has the best hands of the trio. On top of that, there seems to be a firm commitment to using the proper packages and formations to allow two tight ends to succeed in the offense.
It seems like a safe bet that Escobar will be more successful than his predecessors. Though, admittedly, the bar isn't set very high.
Sticking with our numerical journey to training camp, let's take a closer look at the number 80:
- Eight Cowboys players have worn No. 80 since 2000. Six of them have been tight ends, and only one of them, Bennett, has lasted longer than two full seasons with the team. It's probably a good thing Escobar went with another number.
- The number 80 wasn't always so bad, though. Wide receiver Tony Hill wore it from 1977-86 on the way to 7,988 yards and 51 touchdowns, second and third most, respectively, in team history.
- The 1980 season marked the end of an era for Cowboys' success, as Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach retired on March 31 of that year. Staubach held all major Cowboys passing records at the time of his retirement and was the NFL's all-time passing leader.
- Dec. 28, 1980 was the date of Tom Landry's 200th career victory. He became just the third NFL coach to reach the landmark, after legends George Halas and Curly Lambeau. Landry achieved the milestone with a 34-13 thrashing of the Rams in Texas Stadium.