Witten: Expect more from Cowboys tight ends than shown in preseason

Jason Witten

Credit: WFAA

Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and other veteran playhers had the day off from practice at Valley Ranch on August 21, 2013.

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by TED MADDEN

WFAA Sports

Posted on August 21, 2013 at 5:44 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 21 at 5:51 PM

IRVING — It's called a "veteran rest day," and it was a first for tight end Jason Witten.

Witten — along with Miles Austin, DeMarcus Ware, and Jason Hatcher — did not participate in Wednesday morning's practice; they were given a day off by the coaches.

Before this, the only time Witten missed practice was when he was injured. In Oxnard, he refused to take a day off when offered one.

"It's been a six-year discussion," said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett with a laugh. "We finally broke through."

This is supposed to be a big year for the tight ends, after what was Witten's biggest year of his career in 2012. The Cowboys plan to play more two tight end sets than they have in the past, and they've drafted two of them in the last couple years: Gavin Escobar and James Hanna.

"With a guy like either me or Gavin with Witten, it's going to be difficult for defenses to match up with us, as far as personnel goes," said Hanna, in his second year with the Cowboys. "They could play big and we could try to throw the ball, or they could play small and we can try to run on them."

There have been only three preseason games so far, but whatever added influence the tight ends are supposed to have this year, we haven't seen it yet.

Last year, Witten finished with 110 catches (a career high), while Hanna and John Phillips each had eight. Witten was a big reason why one out of every 3.4 completions by Cowboys quarterbacks went to the tight ends.

So far in this preseason, tight ends are seeing the ball a lot less.

Escobar has six catches, Donte Rosario two, and Colin Cochart one. If you do the math, in three games, one out of every 6.2 completions are going to the tight ends.

"I think that's just kind of how the way the games have gone with 11 personnel," Witten said. "I'm sure there's some personnel packages in the plays we haven't shown.

"I just think that's kind of the way the games have gone... [more] than anything we're trying to hide."

Hopefully, Witten took advantage of his day off, because he will be very busy soon enough.

E-mail tmadden@wfaa.com

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