With free agency looming in March, roster turnover isn't far away. However, the majority of the 2019 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, DallasCowboys.com will feature players who are currently under contract for next season, analyzing their past season and their future prospects.
Today, we continue the series with tight end Dalton Schultz.
What's Been Good: For Schultz, the improvement as the season went along is worth noting. There were a couple of games in which he had three catches in consecutive weeks. And he's not just catching the ball, but having a down-field presence as well. With his 20-yard catch against the Rams in the playoffs, it was his longest play from scrimmage of the season and moved his season average to 10.4 yards, including the postseason.
What's Been Bad: Fourth-round picks are at least expected to contribute a little earlier, especially at a position that lost a future Hall of Famer and needed some help right away. Schultz was inactive for five of the first six weeks of the season and only had one catch for 12 yards in the first eight games of the year. Some of the Cowboys' hesitation in playing him stemmed from his struggles as a blocker. But that obviously improved to the point in which the Cowboys started using him more and more in the rotation.
2018 Highlight: His best game of the season occurred on Dec. 9 against the Eagles in what proved to be one of the more pivotal wins of the year. Schultz not only set a career-high with three catches for 37 yards, but in overtime, had a 16-yard catch, and then a 5-yard reception on the Cowboys' game-winning touchdown drive.
What's Next: Many players make a huge leap from their first season to the second, both in the weight room and the film room. Schultz can stand to get better in both areas, but he showed enough promise towards the end of the season. Obviously, it's unfair to compare any tight end to the likes of Jason Witten. But in his first season back in 2003, Witten caught eight passes in the first seven games of his career, but finished with 35 that rookie year. After that, he made the Pro Bowl in 11 of the next 14 seasons. Sometimes, these mid-round tight ends need a little bit of time to figure out their role in the offense and how to be effective as both a pass-catcher and blocker. Let's see if Schultz can take those steps to get there in the offseason.
In the coming weeks, DallasCowboys.com will feature players who are currently under contract for next season, analyzing their past season and their future prospects. Today, we continue the series with tight end Dalton Schultz.
Bryan's Bottom Line:
Where I misevaluated Dalton Schultz is that I believed that he would have been a "plug and play" starter but that wasn't the case. Even though he comes from a big time college program, he wasn't ready for the jump that he needed to make. Schultz wasn't prepared physically to execute the assignments which were required of him. The coaches threw him in the deep end of the pool and he couldn't swim. But once Schultz was inactive a few games, it allowed him to sit back and collect his breath and improve his game. The hands and route runner will never be a problem for him, it's his improvement in core strength that will make him a better player.