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Mailbag: Witten’s Role; A Young LB To Watch?

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It seems that Witten is being talked about this season as helping out immensely in the red zone. The one knock against the likely Hall of Famer is that he hasn't piled up touchdowns over his career. His average touchdown production is 4.5 per season. He obviously is going to help third down efficiency, and be a safety blanket, but why are we talking about him having such a huge role in increasing red zone efficiency next season? - STEPHEN CONE

Bryan: Jason Witten has always been an outstanding red zone player, but his last couple of seasons working with Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott that tailed off. This is not Witten’s fault, but there were other options and Scott Linehan chose not to use him. Go back and look at his production with Tony Romo. That’s really all you need to know. Big body. Dependable hands. Awareness of how to get open. If offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is smart, he once again takes advantage of that.

Rob: One of my favorite all-time Witten plays is his winning touchdown catch in overtime against the Eagles in 2016, Dak Prescott’s rookie year. It was vintage Witten, using his football savvy to find a soft spot in the defense. You’re correct about his touchdown totals: 68 over 15 seasons to this point. But his red zone impact isn’t all about touchdowns, just like a pass rusher’s production isn’t solely about sacks. It’s also about presence. Witten’s career has never been built on pure speed and athleticism. He still has a knack for finding space in tight quarters, and that can help this offense.

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I drove over to the start of training camp last year and before he got hurt, LB Chris Covington seemed to be getting lots of praise from his position coach in several drills. How is he doing and will he make an impact in 2019? - BILL CONWAY / PALM SPRINGS, CA

Bryan: I am still waiting for Chris Covington to turn the corner. It appears they;re giving him plenty of chances but he hasn’t responded like he should. Joe Thomas and Justin March-Lillard have shown up more than Covington in these practices and that’s surprising.

Rob: Covington’s frame (6-2, 245) makes him a natural fit for the strong-side (SAM) linebacker spot. But the Cowboys want their best three linebackers on the field at once, so it makes sense to move Sean Lee to SAM. Special teams will be key for Covington as the backup linebacker competition moves into training camp.

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