There is no underestimating how much the tight end position means to prolific passing offenses in the NFL.
For years, the Dallas Cowboys have had the luxury of having Jason Witten as a dynamic threat in their passing game. In 2012, the Cowboys hope they can rely on John Phillips to bring a new element at the No. 2 tight end spot.
Phillips played in all 16 games a season ago and recorded 15 receptions for 101 yards, including a touchdown, but this year his role will expand.
In the offseason, the Cowboys lost Martellus Bennett, who signed with the New York Giants in free agency, so Phillips has a chance to secure a more prestigious role in the offense. However, heading into training camp, he won't let the circumstances change his game.
"You've got to have the same mindset," Phillips said. "I've been coming into camp the same way for the last three years. Obviously, this year a door opened for me to step up and make an impact. I'm always excited to go to camp. You've got to go in there and do the right things and prove that you can handle that responsibility, handle that role."
Phillips has, certainly, earned an opportunity, but it didn't come without warrant.
"John has done well," Witten said. "John is a gamer. You think of Martellus and what he brought size and ability wise. John just makes so many things happen on the field. The versatility that he brings. He can play four different positions for you on offense."
Witten thinks the development of Phillips brings more of a threat for an already high-powered offense.
"You see New England with all the different tight ends looks that they did," Witten said. "I think that just puts pressure on the defense. That's something we get by having John Phillips in the game. Whatever he's asked, he does it. He's just a right kind of guy. You need more guys like that on your team. I know it makes my job easier, and it makes it easier on Tony (Romo) because he knows exactly where guys like that are going to be."
The Cowboys also have depth at tight end with some young guys who were brought in. Phillips knows how they feel being the newbies, but he knows when they get the hang of things, they can contribute.
"When you're young and coming in, you're swimming," Phillips said. "I was there. You're treading water and just trying to learn the playbook. We've got a tense and dense offense. You've got to learn everything and not mess up."
With Witten and Phillips shoring up the top two tight ends spots, those young guys should be in good hands.