Skip to main content


Presented by

Ferguson details playoff prep, McCarthy's swagger


FRISCO, Texas — For a second consecutive season, Jake Ferguson finds himself in a position to contribute to a possible playoff run for the Dallas Cowboys, but the circumstances are vastly different this time around over his rookie season in 2022. 

One year ago, he was playing understudy to Dalton Schultz but, nowadays, he's the definitive TE1, and he's also enjoying a career-best season.

A native of Wisconsin, and former top talent of the University of Wisconsin, few players on the current Cowboys' roster have been as immersed in the culture of the Green Bay Packers as Ferguson's been, but the good news for Dallas is he has always been fairly adversarial to that team.

In other words, he never rooted for them as a child or young adult, he often admits. It just wasn't his cup of tea, likely to the chagrin of plenty of his loved ones.

As his preparation for the playoffs goes, it was key for Ferguson to get back on track against the Commanders in the regular season finale after suffering a couple of drops against the Detroit Lions.

He did exactly that by reeling in all six of his targets from three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott and trailing only CeeDee Lamb in receiving yards in the 38-10 blowout victory that secured the NFC East title and the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoff bracket.

"I always try to catch everything that comes my way but, at the same time, I take pride in protecting No. 4," said Ferguson. "There was one across the middle [against the Commanders] that I bobbled a little bit, and the first thing that crossed my mind was, 'Don't let this hit the ground and don't let the defender touch it.' I'm doing everything in my power to take care of [No.] 4. He's our leader and he throws the ball and it touches my hands, it's my job to catch it. 

"That's just what goes through my mind, every single week." 

He went on to detail some of the focus drills he and tight ends coach Lunda Wells undergo on a daily basis, and that includes on the sideline of games as well. 

"Coach Wells and I go through the drills we do — whether it's walkthrough when we're on the sideline when I'm not in, or walkthrough days [at practice] when I'm working on tough catches and wet ball drills, one-handed catches, low balls and catches that are behind me when I'm at full stride — those are the things that, when the things happen in the game or if I'm a little bit off on a route, I'm able to make that play," he said. "It comes down to the small details, the repetition and putting in the work."

It also helps that Ferguson is featured as one of the biggest components of the explosive Cowboys' offense, while also being one of the best and most willing run blockers (and pass protectors, when called upon) you'll find in the NFL.

He finished with 761 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 71 receptions this season, second on the team in yardage to only Lamb, and to only Brandin Cooks in receiving touchdowns.

What has been created with the Texas Coast offense by head coach and offensive playcaller Mike McCarthy has literally returned the Cowboys' offense to the top of the league in several categories, including points per game, and Ferguson can't sing enough praises for what McCarthy has done in 2023.

The very obvious pivot point came in Week 5, when the Cowboys were embarrassed by the San Francisco 49ers, and McCarthy went back into the lab only to quickly emerge as one of the best play callers in the entire league.

Has McCarthy truly re-established his swagger as an offensive maestro?

"100 percent, 100 percent," said Ferguson. "It's one of those [things] where you kind of have an idea what he's gonna call, and sometimes there's a play that's a little bit further down the call sheet in that scenario, and he does end up calling it. And then the whole huddle gets fired up like, 'OK, we know what Coach McCarthy is on today.' 

"It not only gets you fired up, but it could be a tonesetter for the team. That's something that just drives and fires us up."

There can be no doubt that McCarthy — while saying all of the right things publicly — will have added motivation to put on a show against the Packers on Super Wild Card Weekend.

And considering his No. 1 tight end doesn't exactly have affection for Green Bay himself, McCarthy and Prescott can count on Ferguson to leave it all on the field this coming Sunday.

Related Content