FRISCO, Texas - Dalton Schultz doesn't plan on letting his breakout season in 2020 become an anomaly. He was the Cowboys' starting tight end last year due a season-ending injury suffered to Blake Jarwin in Week 1 of the season.
Now, Jarwin is back and healthy, but Schultz got a taste of what it takes to be a starting player in the NFL, and he's taken that approach into 2021.
"If anything, my process is more rigorous than it was last year," Schultz said on Wednesday. "I'm trying to get myself to do more day-to-day, whether that's recovery or prep work or film work."
Jarwin is still the higher paid tight end, so there was an assumption by some that he would take over the majority of the snaps at the position this year. Two games into the year it doesn't seem so simple. The Cowboys have managed to walk a line of incorporating Jarwin's playmaking potential into the offense while still taking advantage of the chemistry that Schultz and Dak Prescott developed early last year.
While Schultz is actually the first-team tight end on the Cowboys' official depth chart, the team has adopted a two-tight end rotation that has been fairly balanced going into Week 3. Schultz has caught all eight of his targets for a total of 63 yards. Meanwhile, Jarwin has caught six of his seven targets for a total of 57 yards. Taken as one, that would add up to some very good production for a tight end through two weeks.
"It's been easier to start [this season]," Schultz said. "I didn't have to build up any confidence this year. I had confidence coming into the year."
Ultimately, last year's nightmare season is offering up a bit of an advantage this year in that players who were forced to play due to injuries have learned from their experience. We saw it with Terence Steele's confidence last Sunday, and Schultz said that when he looks at film of himself this year he sees a better player, and more specifically, a better blocker who can help the run game.
"My footwork is better," Schultz said of blocking. "My handplay is better. My leverage is better. I look smoother in a lot of stuff. I'm not second-guessing. That just comes from time in an offense and doing those reps over and over."
How the tight end snaps are distributed going forward is anybody's guess, but utilizing both Schultz and Jarwin is working for the moment. Prescott is clearly comfortable throwing to both of them. As far as Schultz is concerned, he had his breakout year during a season most fans would prefer to forget. He plans on being a part of more ambitious things this year.
"It feels more natural [this season]. There are more people in the stands. There's more noise and you have to navigate that. But that's football. That's what we're used to."