IRVING, Texas -- Ten games into his NFL career and Gavin Escobar has four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.
When the Dallas Cowboys made him a somewhat surprisingly second-round pick, there were automatic expectations for Escobar. Though they knew he would need time to develop as a blocker -- something coach Jason Garrett has repeated as often as his “process” talk -- Escobar could be a factor in the passing game with the Cowboys using more two-tight-end sets.
Everybody is still waiting.
After playing at least 15 snaps in each of the first three games, Escobar has played fewer than 10 snaps in five of the last seven.
“Certainly his production hasn’t been overwhelming,” Garrett said. “When we evaluate one of the things you try to do -- and is something I thought about a lot as a player, I emphasize this a lot to young players -- is if there’s an Escobar tape, and the Escobar tape has nothing to do with anybody else’s tape, these are Escobar’s plays, ‘How’d I do on my plays?’ If we evaluate the Escobar tape, he’s done some good things. And what we think as coaches is, ‘He’s done good things, let’s keep giving him more opportunities.’ One of the challenges that he has is Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray, Terrance Williams, Miles Austin, Cole Beasley -- when some of these other guys emerge, they’re competing for opportunities.”
There might not be enough footballs to go around, but then that speaks to the decision-making in taking a tight end in the second round. The Cowboys have wanted to be a heavy “12 personnel” team in the past. It never took off with Anthony Fasano. It never took off with Martellus Bennett.
Fasano and Bennett were second-round picks too.
This time it was supposed to be different. The two-tight-end grouping is the Cowboys’ base offensive set, but Escobar has not been able to beat out James Hanna.
“I think James does some things better at this point,” Garrett said. “His experience certainly helps him. If you look at Hanna from last year, he came in as a sixth-round pick middle of the year last year. He kind of started to emerge as a guy who could do some stuff for us and made some plays down the stretch. Development happens and those opportunities happen and each one of the pieces we have to get going a little bit more.”
When they picked Travis Frederick in the first round, eyebrows were raised, but Frederick’s strong play has justified the decision. Escobar’s lack of production just makes it seem as if the Cowboys have missed on a second-round pick when they had other needs to fill.
Garrett chose to dip into the Cowboys’ archives for those who want instant success from a second-round pick.
“Darren Woodson was a special-teams player his first year,” Garrett said of the Cowboys’ No. 2 pick in 1992. “He was taken in the second round. You’re arguing my point. He was a special-teams player, and he went on to have one of the great careers. So just because right at this moment the guy doesn’t come in and take the league by storm ... [Escobar] has done a nice job for us with the opportunities we’ve given him. We’re going to keep growing those opportunities and hopefully he continues to get better and better and better.”