IRVING, Texas – Mike Pope has only been the Cowboys' tight ends coach for a few days, but it's easy to see what his top priority will be when he takes the reins in Dallas.
Speaking from the Senior Bowl on Monday, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones made no bones about it: he wants to see his 2013 second round pick, Gavin Escobar, utilized more in the coming season.
"I'm disappointed in the number of chances that he got, the number of times that we gave him an opportunity," Jones said. "And we're going to do something about that as we go forward – he'll have more opportunity. And he should have had a lot more opportunity last year."
Escobar didn't enjoy the type of involvement typically expected of such a high pick – he was taken No. 47 overall. He caught just nine passes on 15 targets and finished the season with 134 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't log a reception in eight of 16 games. "If we look back on our 'should have done' list, having him more involved in the offense would have been one of them," Jones said.
The rookie did show flashes, however – highlighted by his leaping, somersaulting touchdown against Philadelphia in the last game of the season. Jones said Escobar's quiet season had more to do with a lack of opportunity than skill. The San Diego State product showed an ability to make athletic plays, beating coverage out wide as well as in the tradition tight end position.
"He certainly didn't, in any way, take a step back or disappoint, relative to his skill level and what he can do as a real weapon for us," Jones said. "And he actually served some of the same things that a Beasley does, or some of the same things as, if you would, even a Dunbar – but in a totally different way." [embedded_ad]
Enter Pope, who coached the Giants' tight ends from 2000 to this past season. Pope never had a perennial Pro Bowl-caliber player like Jason Witten to work with, but he has coaxed successful seasons out of the likes of Jake Ballard, Kevin Boss, Brandon Myers and former Cowboy Martellus Bennett.
That doesn't include Jeremy Shockey, who put together the best season of Pope's tenure with an 891-yard, seven-touchdown effort in 2005.
Under Pope, the Giants have had a tight end turn in at least a 500-yard season every year since 2001. There's little doubt Witten will continue to produce with his guidance. The question now is how Escobar progresses under such an established tutor.
His emergence as a playmaker is something Jones will clearly have an eye on.
"Escobar is very capable of that, and we have to get him the ball more because he can make those plays for us," he said.