If feels like fans have been waiting forever for Blake Jarwin to emerge as the Dallas Cowboys dynamic pass-catching tight end, but for one reason or another it never came to fruition.
After going undrafted in 2017, the Cowboys stashed Jarwin on their practice squad. In late October, the team promoted him onto their active roster to avoid being poached by the Philadelphia Eagles, causing Dallas to allocate four roster spots on the tight end position. Jarwin only played in one game that year, logging just three offensive snaps and never seeing a single target.
The first retirement of Jason Witten was supposed to open the door for Jarwin, but his inexperience as a blocker limited his playing time. The offense instead relied on veteran Geoff Swaim to handle the bulk of the snaps. Swaim saw three times as much playing time because he was a viable in-line blocker. When Swain succomb to injury late in the season, Jarwin's playing time increased. But again, his liability as a blocker kept him from dominating the snaps. In fact, during the six games Swaim missed in 2018, rookie Dalton Schultz out-snapped Jarwin in four of those games. Of course, nobody really remembers much of that, but they do recall this...
Jarwin capped off the season with huge game where he hauled in seven catches for 119 yards and three touchhdowns. It was just enough to whet our appetites for what was sure to be a breakout season in 2019, right?
Witten deciding to come out of retirement threw a wrench into any plans of Jarwin being unleashed, as the future first-ballot Hall of Famer was immediately inserted into the starting role. For the second-straight season, Jarwin was just a sidekick.
So, when Witten left the Cowboys a second time, the day was finally coming for all the Jarwin groupies to cash in on their excitement. The front office even sparked that enthusiasm by signing him to a four-year, $22 million contract extension last offseason. It was finally going to happen! But unfortunately, a knee injury derailed Jarwin's season in Week 1, and just like that the fun was over. Through all these weird events, the Cowboys and Jarwin just never seemed to get the timing right.
The new season brings forth a clean bill of health for Jarwin, and once again, the excitement is building. But it might be wise to slow your roll because there are a couple factors worth considering before we just pencil in Jarwin as the team's starting tight end. In fact, here are three reasons why Schultz, and not Jarwin, is likely to emerge as the Cowboys starting tight end.
Jarwin is a huge liability as a blocker
We already know that Schultz is the better blocker of the two, just as Jarwin is the better receiver. We keep hoping that Jarwin is able to improve his blocking ability, and while we only have half of one 2020 game to go by, his blocking was not up to snuff. Jarwin can be seen repeatedly being pushed into the backfield. He just doesn't possess the strength or the fundamentals to be an effective blocker.
Dalton, on the other hand, is a very good blocker. His reads, the way he squares his body, and his purposeful strikes help make him an asset in the running game. And while he offered next to nothing as a pass catcher prior to last season, he surprised us all with a very impressive 2020 season where he caught 63 passes for 615 yards and four touchdowns.
It seems pretty clear that the drop off in blocking ability by going with Jarwin far exceeds the drop off in receiving ability by going Schultz.
You can't tip off the defense
Some may argue, why choose? If you need a blocker, insert Schultz, and if you desire a receiver, go with Jarwin. That is nice in theory, but utilizing those guys in that fashion will make it very easy for opposing defenses to defend. There will be some obvious down and distance situations where this approach will work just fine, but for the most part, the Cowboys will need their tight end to handle both parts of the job. While he may not bring that same level of excitement to the passing game, Schultz is actually a pretty good dual-threat tight end. With him on the field, they're not tipping off the defense on whether it's a run or a pass because he can be effective in both roles.
You don't want to pull other offensive weapons from the field
While we love the idea of Jarwin running up the seam, it should be noted that the offense is only allowed 11 guys on the field at any given time. When the team throws out their 12 personnel set (one running back and two tight ends), that means one of their talented receivers aren't on the field. Just be mindful that more Jarwin could mean less Michael Gallup or less CeeDee Lamb or even less of the likeliness of a two running back set with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard both on the field at the same time.
Kellen Moore has a lot of different weapons at his disposal, and I'm sure we'll see a little bit of everything. But if you were expecting this to finally be the year that Jarwin breaks out, you could once again be disappointed. However, this time it can't be blamed on Witten or injury, but rather his inability to secure his blocks. And for that reason, don't be surprised if Schultz is the team's starting tight end.