For all of the Cowboys’ deficiencies at wide receiver – no more TO, nagging injuries to Roy Williams, the continuing enigma that is Miles Austin – the team has an embarrassment of riches at the tight end position. Regardless of how Williams turns out, Tony Romo will still count on Jason Witten to be his number one receiver. And second-year tight end Martellus Bennett led the Cowboys with 12 catches for 155 yards this preseason. This comes off a rookie year where 20 percent of Bennett’s catches went for touchdowns. Like Witten, Bennett has the speed and agility to catch balls off of hot reads AND be a downfield threat, like a wideout. On most any other NFL team, Bennett would be the starting tight end and a Pro Bowl threat.
So, what do you do when your wideout corps is shaky and you have two gifted tight ends? You play both of them, of course. The Cowboys are expected to deploy the two tight end set more often this year, part of a potential trend spreading across NFL offenses. Texans coach Gary Kubiak explained more the Dallas Morning News:
"Protection is No. 1 in this league," Kubiak said. "If you can't protect your quarterback, it doesn't matter how good you are offensively. If he gets beaten up, you're not going to be successful. A two-tight end [package] widens those great defensive ends. It allows you to chip [block] on your way out and slow those guys down.
"It also balances the field so you can go either way when you run the ball. There are a lot of advantages to it. But it all starts with keeping your quarterback upright."
There are more advantages to the two tight end set. The Colts have used the formation for ages to run the stretch play with a single running back in backfield. A tight end on both sides of the formation means more potential cutback lanes, with linebackers unable to stack the strong side. Playing Bennett with Witten also mean the defense can’t focus all of its energy on making sure Witten doesn’t get off the line. If a defense dedicates more than one guy to blasting Witten, it’ll free up Bennett to get big gains, and then tweet about it.
Both Witten and Bennett have the ability to move motion out from the line and into the slot, creating mismatches with smaller DB’s or slower LB’s. That also gives Roy Williams and the other wideouts the benefit of potential single coverage. When the team gets into the red zone, either Williams, Bennett, or Witten WILL be open. And that’s not even considering Felix Jones or Marion Barber flaring out from the backfield.
So don’t worry too much about how those wideouts come along, Cowboys fans. With two excellent tight ends around to gobble up passes, it may not matter.