- Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas – With the Dallas Cowboys heading to the Senior Bowl on Monday, coach Jason Garrett knows he has at least one vacancy to fill with the departure of tight ends coach Wes Phillips to the Washington Redskins.
The No. 1 task of the next tight ends coach has to be the development of Gavin Escobar.
The new tight ends coach will inherit future Hall of Famer Jason Witten, who will be entering his 12th season in 2014. He is the franchise’s all-time leading receiver. He is coming off a 73-catch, 851-yard, eight-touchdown season. If the Denver Broncos or San Francisco 49ers make it to the Super Bowl, Witten will play in his ninth Bowl.
It’s not that coaching Witten is easy. It might be more challenging. On the CBS pregame show last week Bill Cowher interviewed New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who had this to say about Tom Brady:
"[Tom and I] have had a weekly meeting the entire time we've been together,'' Belichick said. “Tom is one of the toughest players I've ever had to coach, because when you walk into a meeting with Tom, he's already seen every game. Like the Colts. He's already seen every game the Colts have played defensively. So you can't go in there unprepared, you can't go in there saying, 'Well, I don't know if they're going to do this,' because he'll say, 'Did you see the Tennessee game? That's what they did.'
"You have to be as well-prepared as he is. And that's a good thing but it's also a hard thing. You can't throw the curveball by him. You better know what you're talking about, because he does.''
That’s the challenge for a coach with Witten. He knows everything inside and out. The coach has to challenge him in different ways.
But the Cowboys know what they are going to get in Witten.
They don’t know what they are going to get out of Escobar, their second-round pick in 2013. He had nine catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns. He needs to improve greatly as a blocker and it’s more than just getting stronger. He has to work at it, learn the technique, know all three positions the tight end has to play in this offense. Escobar can’t be a one-trick pony (or two tricks) of running the seams in the middle of the field and fades in the red zone.
The new coach has to get more out of Escobar than what the Cowboys got out of their other second-round tight ends in Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett.