The Dallas Cowboys are without one of their receiving options just one week into the regular season. Fourth-year tight end Blake Jarwin tore his ACL in the Cowboys' 20-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams and has been deemed out for the rest of the season.
With a "next man up" mentality, the literal interpretation would mean that third-year tight end Dalton Schultz would take Jarwin's targets in the passing game. However, replacing Jarwin in the passing game may not be as straightforward as it would seem as the Cowboys were counting on Jarwin to take a step forward in 2020 following Jason Witten’s exit to Las Vegas.
The Cowboys do have a talented receiver trio in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb. Dallas even has a yards and points generator in running back Ezekiel Elliott, who proved his effectiveness in the passing game against the Rams with three catches for 31 yards and a touchdown.
One way to replace Jarwin's targets would be to distribute them to a reserve player at another skill position.
"I think you do want the ball in the hands of your best players, and if one of your better players goes down, then certainly if you want to get the touches to the next player, whether that's a tight end or whether that's a running back like [Tony] Pollard or whether that's Cedrick Wilson," Cowboys COO Stephen Jones told 105.3 "The Fan" [KRLD-FM] Friday. "I think all of those things are in play when you start to distribute the ball."
Pollard, Elliott's backup, caught two passes for 22 yards against Los Angeles. The second-year running back from Memphis also carried two times for 10 yards. Wilson, who plays receiver and excels at special teams, was not targeted in Los Angeles.
"Obviously Blake is a real important part of our offense," Cooper said. "He's a real explosive guy at that tight end position. I know we're going to miss him. And it's going to be hard to replace him, but that's what we practice for. That's why we have other guys who are behind him and need to step up and be ready to step up. So, I don't think it's going to change much. We'll try to keep the ball rolling and try to take it as best as we can."
One way would be to get other positions involved. The Cowboys had high expectations for Pollard, even though he was merely a complement to Elliott in the backfield and not a replacement. Similarly, Wilson, a 2018 sixth-round pick, has been near the bottom of the depth chart as Gallup and Cooper have commanded more attention in the offense. However, it could be their time to shine as offensive coordinator Kellen Moore ponders ways to replace Jarwin's production.
"It's a very unfortunate part of this game, and next guys get their opportunities," Moore said. "Dalton, Blake Bell, Sean [McKeon], and, so, those guys have to step up, which they are more than capable of, and if we have to adjust a little bit, we'll adjust."
Adapting to overcoming hardship is an indicator of a successful team. The 2019 Cowboys were similarly hampered by not having complete availability from key players. If the 2020 version with new coach Mike McCarthy can finally adapt to unfavorable circumstances with personnel, they may be able to finish better than .500.
Do you think the Cowboys have the weapons on offense to survive the loss of Blake Jarwin? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.