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Offseason | 2023

Battle Lines: How Youth, Depth Can Help TE Group

20230602_Tight Ends_OTA

With the offseason practices – both OTAs and minicamps – all done for the Cowboys this offseason, there is a lengthy break between now and the start of training camp, which begins July 24 in Oxnard.

But that doesn't mean there aren't questions on the table at each position. Each day, we will take a deep dive into each spot on the field, analyzing the top battles, the key players and some bold predictions. Today, we continue with the tight ends.

What needs to go right?: Mike McCarthy and tight ends coach Lunda Wells have each emphasized that the tight end group will be just as important – if not more important – as they were to the offense's success in 2022, so health and development will be crucial to the group's success with them being so young. Replacing a presence like Dalton Schultz won't be easy, but as long as the group can stay healthy, I have zero concerns about Schultz's missing production being accounted for with a lively and young group chomping at the bit.

Biggest Question: Who emerges as the guy? While the tight end group was productive top-to-bottom last year, Dalton Schultz was never challenged as TE1. Now, that remains up for the taking. Jake Ferguson has probably the most clear path, but fending off Peyton Hendershot and Luke Schoonmaker for the majority of reps won't be easy.

Battle to Watch: A case could be made that you could spin a wheel and place any tight end in any order on the depth chart, for the most part, and it would make sense. With the group still so young and developing, depth chart fluidity is incredibly prevalent. It obviously starts up top with who takes the lead role, but with the expected addition of even more personnel packages with two and three tight ends under McCarthy's offense, who takes control of the TE3 role will be interesting to see unfold.

Bold Prediction: The more I look at this group, the more I feel like Jake Ferguson will start all 17 games. While that may not seem "bold" to some, with the talent in that room, that would be a huge accomplishment for a second-year player to thwart off everyone else competing for that spot.

Biggest Challenge: With the expected heavy utilization of tight ends under the new offense, it will be increasingly important for the group to start hot in week one against the Giants and remain consistent throughout the season. Even just one off week could throw the offense out of sorts. Even though they're young, the group will have to attack each week like veterans.

Key Stat: The Cowboys' six tight ends have combined for just 1,115 career NFL snaps, which is the second-least in the entire league for a tight end group behind the Packers (993 career snaps). To put the youth even more into perspective, all but six teams in the NFL have more than 1,115 combined tight end snaps from just the 2022 season on their roster.

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