Dallas Cowboys Should Make Tight Ends A Priority In 2013

By Ben Grimaldi
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

For the past few years, there have been questions about who the Dallas Cowboys number three wide receiver will be? And for the past few years I’ve always answered it the same way, it doesn’t matter because there’s nothing to worry about. My reasoning is quite simple too, the Cowboys have Jason Witten.

No, he’s not a wide receiver but Witten certainly catches as many passes as some of the top receivers in the game so it’s easy to think of him as the one of the Cowboys top three options in the passing game. When you add in Witten with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, I wonder why people continue to worry about a number three receiver? There are only so many balls to go around and I think the Cowboys top three options are pretty good, but it could be even better in 2013.

When the Cowboys drafted Martellus Bennett out of Texas A & M in the 2008 NFL draft they envisioned a great tight end tandem creating matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. It didn’t turn out that way but the Cowboys shouldn’t give up on the idea because second year tight James Hanna could make a very nice one-two punch with Witten. The two could very well give defenses fits next season if the Cowboys can use the tight ends in a similar fashion to the New England Patriots use Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

I’m not saying that Witten and Hanna can be as good at the Pats dynamic duo but it’s very possible they can be extremely productive if they are used in the same way. For starters, the size of the players matches up pretty good. Jason Witten is 6’5 and weighs 261 pounds, while the Gronk is 6’6 and 265, and neither player has great speed or athleticism but they do possess enough of both to be extremely effective.

Meanwhile, Hanna and Hernandez are also similar in stature, Hanna is 6-4, 250 pounds and Hernandez is 6-2 and weighs 245 pounds and they are both more along the lines of being labeled the athletic tight ends. On the field there is no comparison and Hernandez has been much more productive but Hanna came on late in the season for the Cowboys and caught seven of his eight passes in the final four games of the year. It doesn’t seem like much but the Cowboys gained faith in Hanna late in the season and he has the ability to be a legitimate threat in the passing game.

If the Cowboys can use Witten and Hanna the way the Patriots use Gronkowski and Hernandez, the Cowboys offense would certainly benefit. In today’s NFL, it’s all about match-ups and it’s tough to match-up with two good tight ends capable of beating a defense each week and the Patriots have proven that in the past few years, so it’s something the Cowboys need to take advantage of. Witten will always be a great receiver and Hanna will continue to get better so if the Cowboys are studying any team this off-season, it should be the Patriots and how they utilize their tight ends.

The Cowboys need to get more miss-matches on offense and it doesn’t get any easier than with the tight ends. If teams want to double up Dez Bryant and Witten, then that will leave James Hanna and Mile Austin in one-on-one situations, which should mean advantage to the Cowboys. In today’s day and age, it’s very tough for linebackers to cover tight ends in space and if the Cowboys offense can move Hanna around to gain that match-up, again, advantage Cowboys.

If Dallas can use their tight ends like the Patriots use theirs, will we still hear anyone talk about their need for a third wide receiver? Probably not, especially since I believe they have two legitimate players who can make significant contributions in Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley, but make good use of their tight ends will only enhance their offense.

I know Bill Callahan’s style of offense doesn’t highlight the tight end much but Jason Garrett will still be involved in the offensive game planning and he has always seen the value in the tight end so the Cowboys will continue to use their tight ends with success. The biggest question is just how much will the Cowboys use Hanna and Witten together on the field as receivers in 2013?

The answer should be simple, Witten and Hanna should both be focal points of the Cowboys’ offense and Dallas should look no further that the New England Patriots to see exactly how they can best use their tight end duo. Dallas has the right combination to be very successful with Witten and Hanna as legitimate threats in the passing game, let’s hope the Cowboys are paying attention.

The Dallas Cowboys can have their offense take off in 2013 by focusing on their tight ends in the passing game, where the sky is the limit. So forget about the third wide receiver and pay more attention to how much the Cowboys use James Hanna in the upcoming season.

you can chat with or follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi 

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