The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Is Jason Witten being over-utilized in the passing game?

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At DMN, I took a look at Jason Witten’s limited usage in pass protection this year.

Thus far in 2012, Witten has 122 targets—18 more than any other tight end and already eight more than he had in all of 2011. The Cowboys are passing more often this year due to unusual game situations, but Witten is also being used far less often as a blocker. Through 13 games, I’ve tracked Witten as blocking on only 10.6 percent of passing plays. Further, around one-fourth of the plays on which Witten has blocked have been screens, i.e. not traditional passes with more than one potential target.

Blocking on 1-in-10 passing plays might seem about right for Witten, but Jason Garrett used to utilize Witten in pass protection much more frequently. In 2009, for example, Witten stayed in to block on 22.9 percent of pass plays.

Using Witten as a receiver is obviously optimal for the offense, but that doesn’t mean he should never block on passes. In the same way that teams need to sometimes keep the ball on the ground in order to set up the passing game, Witten needs to stay in to block from time to time to keep defenses honest; if he’s always in a route on passes, defenses can key on him with certainty. Perhaps the failing running game is a sign that defenses have already begun to do that.

Check out the whole article at Dallas News.

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