FRISCO, Texas – It won't be a season that many people are eager to look back on. There are silver linings, though, if you want to look for them.
Take the season finale in New York, for example. It may not have been the most exhilarating game from an offensive standpoint. But a quick look at the box score will show that it wasn't Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb or Michael Gallup who led the team in receiving.
Instead, it was a solid seven receptions for 70 yards from Dalton Schultz, who capped off an impressive first season as a starter with one of his best games of the year.
"It was a step in the right direction, absolutely," Schultz said of his third NFL season. "Especially in this offense, with the firepower that we have, as a tight end you kind of you hope you get a little catch, if you can."
It feels like a lifetime ago that Schultz was presented with this opportunity – and did not look completely ready for it.
Blake Jarwin tore his ACL in the second quarter of the season opener, all the way back on Sept. 13 against the Los Angeles Rams. In his place, Schultz caught just one pass on four targets and was flagged for an offensive pass interference penalty that nullified a touchdown.
That hardly tells the story of the season. From that point, the Stanford product was a steady producer in this Cowboys' offense. The very next week, he caught nine balls for 88 yards and a touchdown against Atlanta. He managed to catch at least one pass in every week of the season, including a game-winning touchdown in Week 12 against Minnesota.
"Dalton's done a tremendous job," said offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. "We were very fortunate, to start the season the way we did losing Blake, to have Dalton ready to go. He's taken advantage of it."
All told, Schultz finished the season with 63 catches for 615 yards – third-best and fifth-best in the NFC among tight ends – and added four touchdowns to go with it. It's not an exaggeration to say Schultz finished with a comparable, or perhaps even a better resume than one of the NFC's Pro Bowl tight ends, New York's Evan Engram.
Of course, asked about his individual success, Schultz said his preference is simply to still be playing.
"I said it earlier in the year, I'd trade all those catches and yards in for just one more game," he said. "I just love the play the game of football, whatever my role is, whatever that means, I just like being around a group of guys that love it just as much as I do."
Unfortunately, it'll be a bit of a wait before Schultz takes the field again. But at least the Cowboys have found some steady production and some promising potential from the tight end position – and from a guy who wasn't the Day 1 starter, at that.
Given the way this season ended, Schultz thinks he and his teammates can do plenty to build on it.
"I think it gives us a little bit of ammunition and gives us a little bit of drive to push that much further in the offseason and get back to it next year," he said.