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Mailbag: Rico's Progress; Special Teams Factor


Are you surprised that Rico Gathers hasn't been utilized more or as productive as expected, especially in the red zone? It seems that he has been primarily used as a blocker as opposed to a receiver. The upside is that it may very well be an indication that he has improved as a blocker. But, with his size and the glimpses we have seen in the past, it seems he should be more active in the receiving department. Your thoughts? - FRED LONDON / MORRISTOWN, TN

Bryan: There is no question that Rico Gathers has improved as a blocker which is why they use him in that role. Where we tend to miss the point is just because you're big that makes you a good red zone target. There is so much more to being a good red zone receiver - just ask Amari Cooper. It's about understanding coverages and spacing, which Gathers has yet to master. I am not saying he can't eventually learn, but that's beyond him at this moment.

Rob: Well, obviously we've seen progress from Blake Jarwin as a receiving tight end, and also from Dalton Schultz. Gathers' snaps have stayed relatively consistent throughout the season – about 5-10 per game. He has improved as a blocker and that has been his primary role. The Cowboys just haven't really expanded the rotation snaps among those three since Geoff Swaim hurt his wrist.


It's easy to forget that special teams are the third phase of the game that you have to take care of to be successful. How do you grade them for the year? Do you think special teams will be an advantage or liability against the Rams and hopefully moving deeper into the playoffs? - JOEY ARNEL SAYSON

Bryan: The kickoff coverage has been a huge disappointment. Up until last week you had no threat in the punt return unit. Chris Jones has had his moments as has Brett Maher. Nobody in the league works as hard as this staff to not make the special teams a liability, but am I concerned? Absolutely. We need to see more plays like we did from Tavon Austin overall.

Rob: If Tavon Austin is indeed good to go this week, he's shown he can be a difference maker on punt returns. Special quickness and speed. The Cowboys have gotten very few kickoff return chances this season. At kicker, Brett Maher's leg strength is a major benefit relative to field goal range. They've got a lot of young players on the coverage units this season but they've improved as the season has gone on. Chris Jones' punting was excellent against Seattle, including a 50-yarder that pinned them inside the 10.

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