<
>

Gavin Escobar gets final chance to show Cowboys what he can do

FRISCO, Texas -- Gavin Escobar is getting another chance -- his final one, likely -- to show everybody he can be the Dallas Cowboys' No. 2 tight end.

Drafted in the second round in 2013 to complement Jason Witten and give the Cowboys a tight-end combination comparable to the New England Patriots with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, Escobar has never had more than nine catches in a season. He has just one this season, though it did go for a touchdown.

In the Week 10 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Geoff Swaim, who earned the No. 2 tight-end job over the summer, suffered a torn pectoral tendon that required surgery Thursday.

With James Hanna still on the physically unable to perform list because of knee surgery during training camp, the Cowboys have turned their attention to Escobar once again.

“It’s tough seeing Geoff going down with an injury, but obviously for me that means a bigger role, so I’m excited for the opportunity,” Escobar said.

In the first eight games of the season, Escobar saw 29 offensive snaps. After Swaim’s injury, he saw 18 against the Steelers. Considering how much the Cowboys like to use the two-tight-end set, he should see more than that Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

“I just go about each and every day in practice to try and get better and I’ve always had the mindset of just taking advantage of the opportunities,” the 25-year-old Escobar said. “That’s kind of how I go about my business.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett praised Escobar’s work against the Steelers. He was impressed with how Escobar handled the increased work and knew his assignments.

“He’s been a good special-teams player for us, and he’s embraced that role. Whenever he’s had an opportunity, he works very hard to cash in on it, whether as a receiver or a blocking role,” Garrett said.

“I thought the other day was a great example of that: to be a professional, to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. That’s what everyone’s job is, your individual responsibility. But it’s important for everybody to understand that that responsibility can change over the course of the week and certainly over the course of a game. You’ve got to be ready for that, as well.”

The Cowboys have just two tight ends on the 53-man roster at the moment. They called up wide receiver Vince Mayle from the practice squad to replace Swaim. They won’t ask him to be a point-of-attack blocker. Nor will they ask Escobar to do that often.

That wasn’t his strength when the Cowboys drafted him. He was a pass-catching tight end at San Diego State, one who could work the seams and corners. Last season, Escobar started a career-high four games but suffered a torn Achilles in the Week 15 loss to the New York Jets.

He rehabbed hard enough to be ready for training camp, but Escobar admits he was not 100 percent.

“I didn’t feel like myself during training camp, but towards the beginning of the season I definitely felt some of that explosion and stuff coming back,” Escobar said. “I’d say I’m pretty close to 100 percent if not 100 percent.”

Escobar will be a free agent after this season. The Cowboys' other second-round tight ends in the Witten era, Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett, have been able to find more success after leaving the Cowboys.

“I’m trying to help this team win, and our focus is just on winning and keeping this thing rolling,” Escobar said. “That’s what my focus is on now. I’ll worry about that after the season.”