FRISCO, Texas – When training camp began back in August, there were no guarantees that Dalton Schultz would even make the 53-man roster.
The Cowboys had just signed Blake Jarwin to a long-term contract, added Blake Bell in free agency and picked up a host of priority college free agents after the draft that could seemingly beat out Schultz for the third spot.
But fast forward four months and here is Schultz, who recently became the fifth tight end in franchise history to record 50 catches in a regular season.
Think about that for a moment.
Jason Witten, Jay Novacek, Doug Cosbie and now Schultz. He has 51 receptions this year with still three games to play. Not bad for a guy who entered training camp fighting for a roster spot.
"Schultz has quietly had him a really good year," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said on 105.3 The Fan this week. "When we lost Blake Jarwin, we thought that was going to be a tough blow, and he exceeded all expectations."
Jarwin went down Week 1 against the Rams with a season-ending ACL injury. In fact, Schultz relieved him for most of that game and didn't actually have his best performance. He dropped a pass over the middle and had a critical penalty that stalled a drive.
But the next week against the Falcons, the Cowboys rallied from a 20-0 deficit to win 40-39 on a last-second field goal. Schultz was a big part of the comeback, catching nine passes for 88 yards, including his first career touchdown.
And even though the Cowboys have struggled offensively this year, thanks in large part to several key injuries to players such as Dak Prescott, Tyron Smith, La'el Collins and even Jarwin, Schultz has figured out a way to shine.
Since the Week 1 game against the Rams, in which he caught just one pass for 11 yards, Schultz has hauled in at least one pass in every contest. In the last six outings, which has actually featured three different starting quarterbacks, Schultz has 26 catches, including a game-winning touchdown in Minnesota in the final two minutes.
Last Sunday against the Bengals, Schultz had three receptions for 34 yards with a leaping grab that set the Cowboys up at the 3-yard line.
"I really like the year that Dalton's having," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "I thought he played very well (Sunday), not only in the passing game but also in the run game and protection-wise. So he's obviously very smart, instinctive player, but I think the biggest thing he gives us is Dalton is very consistent. His consistency of play has been really good for us all year. I thought he had a heckuva day (Sunday) and hopefully it continues."
Even when Jarwin returns next year, Schultz should have a role in the offense as well. He will enter 2021 on the final season of his four-year contract he signed as a fourth-round pick in 2018.