Roster Rundown: Rarely Used In Passing Game, Hanna Has Improved As Blocker

*Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2015 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features tight end James Hanna.*

Name: James Hanna
Position: Tight End
Height/Weight: 6-4 / 260
Experience: 3 seasons
College: Oklahoma

Key stat:Hanna played 337 snaps for the Cowboys last season, mostly as a blocker, considering he caught just four passes for 48 yards. But he was only flagged for one penalty the entire season.

Contract Status:Signed through 2015.

2014 Impact: It is really easy to say that the reason the Dallas Cowboys ran the football better than anyone else in the league was due to DeMarco Murray and their improved offensive line. As factual as that opinion appears, to fail to mention the job that these tight ends -- especially James Hanna -- did is a mistake. Hanna came into this league as a receiver that was really too big for the position and not physical enough to handle the responsibilities of an inline blocker, so there were plenty of questions about what his true position and role within the team would be.  Where Hanna has found his niche is as that point of attack blocker that can not only get movement on his man but also capture the edge as well to get the ball to the outside. Where I have seen the biggest improvement in his game is with his technique, which under Mike Pope has improved immensely. There were snaps where when the ball was run behind him there was a good chance that he was going to be flattened out along the line or he was going to be defeated right off the snap. This past season I did not observe those types of situations where he was in poor blocking positions. He came off the ball with a flat back, and when he engaged his man, his hand placement and feet were working well together to secure the necessary block. Where Hanna had always had success as a blocker is when he could block his man on the move, and the way this offense ran the ball to the edge in their zone scheme played right into his strengths and the strengths of the way this club ran the ball.

Where He Fits: Clearly there is a role for Hanna on this team in not only what he can do as a blocker but also his work as a core special teams performer. He has one year left on his rookie contract, so the Cowboys will get at least one more year out of him. It'll be interesting to see what happens in the future, because I feel it would be a mistake to part ways with him in 2016 -- not only because of what I have addressed in the running game, but I also believe there is more to his game as an offensive threat. His numbers will not make you stand up and take notice but the potential is there for a larger role just on his athletic ability alone.

Writers' Analysis:

Nick Eatman: If you're looking for flashy, Hanna isn't the guy. But that's typically not what you need from a third tight end. Hanna was drafted as an athletic pass-catching tight end but he's developed into a core player who has emerged as a good blocker and special teams player. While there were several plays that cost the Cowboys the playoff game in Green Bay, Hanna will probably spend most of the offseason thinking about the fumble that went through his hands while covering a kickoff in the third quarter. Had he come up with the loose ball, the Cowboys could've padded an eight-point lead and perhaps put the game out of reach. Still, Hanna had another quiet, but productive season for his role. On a team filled with superstar players, guys like Hanna still have a place when it comes to depth and special teams. While the Cowboys might even draft another tight end this year, it won't be easy for that guy to knock Hanna out of a job considering his versatility on special teams and as a blocker.

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