So are there enough balls to go around?
“I’m just ready to have them in the game if they call their number,” said Wes Phillips, in his first season as the team’s tight ends coach. “I would imagine taking a young guy who is talented [like Escobar] and having James Hanna along to complement Witten, we can get into some different packages in 12 [one running back, two tight ends]. Each of those guys can play to their strengths.”
The Cowboys could use two tight ends more this season. Dallas didn’t use much last season with John Phillips as its second tight end, running only 195 plays with its 12 personnel. The Cowboys threw 74 times with two tight ends in the game, took one sack and rushed the ball 120 times.
In 2011, with Martellus Bennett as their second tight end, the Cowboys used two tight ends for 320 plays, rushing 225 times, taking six sacks and throwing 89 times.
The Cowboys believe Escobar is a better offensive weapon than Bennett or Phillips, who left for San Diego in March as a free agent. Escobar caught 122 passes for 1,646 yards and 17 touchdowns in three seasons at San Diego State.
“We used some resources to draft him,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We used a second-round pick, so we think a lot of him, and we want to give him every opportunity to acclimate him to our offensive system.
“What we have to do as coaches is decide who our best 11 guys are, what our best personnel groups are and try to shape our offense accordingly. You know we’ve used a lot of two tight end offense in the past. …So we want to keep attacking defenses a lot of different ways. We’ll do it with different personnel groups and with different guys within those personnel groups.”
Dallas drafted James Hanna in the sixth round last year, and Hanna played in 107 plays to 333 for Phillips. But in the final four games, Hanna's playing time increased. He played 52 plays in the last four games, while Phillips played 55.
Witten, who played 1,112 plays last season, caught a tight ends record 110 passes for 1,039 yards and three touchdowns. Hanna had eight catches for 86 yards, and Phillips caught eight passes for 55 yards and a score.
-- Charean Williams