(Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2012 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features tight end James Hanna.)
Name: James Hanna
Position: Tight End
Experience: 1 season
Key stat:After catching just one pass through the first 12 games, Hanna caught at least one ball in each of the Cowboys' final four games of the season, including a season-high three receptions in the finale.
Contract Status:Signed through 2015.
How He Played In 2012: The biggest question I had of James Hanna was not what kind of blocker would he become, but would he be more than just a guy that is 50-50 when it came to catching balls. There were games that you could have studied at Oklahoma where he would make the most unbelievable catches, then he would drop a simple spot route. It was clear to me in camp that the concerns that I had about his ability to catch the ball consistently were not going to be a problem. I was impressed with his ability to not only catch the ball on the move, but in traffic as well. His concentration level was outstanding, and along with his athletic ability I felt like he had a chance to really help scheme wise, but that didn't happen as quickly as I thought.
The staff had a loyalty to John Phillips but that was understandable because he was able to fill a lot of the roles as an inline blocker, "H" and "F". From what I was told, where Hanna really caught the eye of the coaches was his work on the scout team and each week playing the role of the opposing tight end for that week. If you remember, there was a stretch where the Cowboys were playing some outstanding tight ends. Hanna along with Orton torched Rob Ryan's defense daily and along with his work on special teams, the coaches decided to give him more of a role in the offense. When Hanna got the opportunity you could see him play with separation and an understanding of how to get open. He was a reliable target for Romo and that was important.
How Does He Fit: Phillips is an unrestricted free agent, so you will now see Hanna move up to take the role of the second tight end in this offense. Along with Jason Witten, it should be a nice combination because you have two tight ends that can get up the field and break down defenses. I believe that he will develop as a blocker but not as an inline guy, but more of one that handles things on the move across the formation or out on the edge. He should develop better strength in the offseason program, which will help him as well. Hanna is one of those second year players on this squad that I feel like will make a major jump on the [embedded_ad]
production side. He is too good of an athlete and his hands that I thought were questionable are much better than that and will only get better. He is learning from a great one in Witten, and tight ends coach Wes Phillips will not allow him to regress in his development. I see a big 2013 for James Hanna.
Rowan Kavner – Many thought James Hanna would be more involved in the offense after watching him during the preseason and seeing him snag a pass in the opener. But after the opener, Hanna went 11 straight games without hauling in a pass. It wasn't because he was dropping them, he just wasn't as involved in the offense as people thought. That seemed strange after hearing how he'd perform with the scout team and mirroring other teams' pass-catching tight ends. Eventually, Hanna broke through late in the season and gave reason to believe he could be a viable option in the passing game for the next few years behind Jason Witten.