A day-three gem of the 2018 draft class, Dalton Schultz has been the engine that drives the high-powered Dallas Cowboys offense this fall. A position that has remained an impactful constant for Dallas since Jason Witten’s first snaps back in 2003, Schultz’s presence will remain of utmost importance if the Cowboys look to rid of their playoff demons and challenge for the NFC crown in a few weeks. Initially slotted behind the future Hall of Famer in Witten and TE2 Blake Jarwin at the start of his career, it wasn’t until year three, and after Witten’s departure, that Schultz evolved into anything more than a further extension of the offensive line. A product of a Stanford program that has turned into the de facto ‘Tight End U’ with six former Cardinal in-line talents scattered across football, Schultz’s progression into Dak Prescott’s target hog this season has presented an awfully enticing chess piece within an offense littered with headlining talent. A scheme tailored by offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who’ll draw offseason head coaching interest after mastheading what has been one of the league’s top offenses for multiple campaigns, Schultz’s production has been a direct byproduct of the outside talent Prescott has at his disposal on each and every snap. With CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper occupying the X and Z on the perimeter, secondaries have had their hands full attempting to limit the elite duo of pass-catchers. And that’s only the beginning. While the tandem presents a laundry list of obstacles to overcome as teams that opt to align corners in man-to-man are just asking for trouble, conversely, taking bodies out of the box to limit said talent opens up the run game, and, specifically, the intermediate areas of the offense where Schultz calls home. Currently slotted third among all tight-end targets with 75 receptions in 16 games, Schultz has become a MOF (middle of field) nightmare for opposing linebackers and safeties tasked with keeping eyes on No. 86. Initially looked upon as a possession receiver out of college where his ability to put his foot in the ground and escape in tight coverage was a slap on the wrist, with more snaps—and more targets—Schultz’ game has continuously progressed into one of the more intriguing skill sets on display from the Y spot this fall. In addition to possessing oven mitts for hands, his burst is sneaky quick compared to his 4.75 40 time coming out of Stanford. With 347 yards coming after the catch, by no means does he have the open-field ability of a Kyle Pitts or George Kittle, but when presented with an opportunity to turn upfield and gain extra yards in high leverage situations, there hasn’t been a weapon Prescott has turned to more than the pending free agent. A talent like Schultz, and the fundamental traits he offers, often gets kicked under the rug during the scouting process. While he isn’t a seam buster, nor does he tout elite athletic traits that scouts drool over, his knack for finding holes in defenses as a zone beater has become twofold with the fluidity of Dallas’ overall offensive gameplan. While the explosive playmaking on the perimeter from Cooper and Lamb draw the attention, and with Michael Gallup now out for the remainder of the campaign, the onus on Schultz to continue to serve as Prescott’s safety blanket and red-zone hot read will continue to present matchup nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators. While his skill set won’t blow you away on film, nor will he shoulder an offensive workload like some of the league’s elite tight end options, Schultz has become the straw that stirs the Cowboys’ offense. A franchise suffocated with expectations each and every campaign, Schultz will remain a driving force as Dallas looks to punch its ticket to its first Super Bowl in nearly three decades.
- May 16, 2022
- May 12, 2022