This is part 2 of my series on Jason Witten. Today I am going to focus on Jason Witten as a receiver. Over the next few days I'll post new parts to this series. I am certain that he is the best tight end in the NFL right now. He may go down as the best tight end in NFL history when his career is over. Hopefully this will open the eyes of anyone who doubts how good this guy is in every way imaginable.
Receiving numbers is what makes a tight end a household name. Well, Jason Witten certainly puts up monster stats when it comes to a tight end. Over the first 6 years of his career Jason has already put up numbers that make him the best tight end the Cowboys have ever had. And that is saying a lot when you have guys like Jay Novacek, Mike Ditka, Billy Joe Dupree and Doug Cosbie to compete with. Here are the numbers that Jason has put up so far, and keep in mind that he is only 27 since he was drafted when he was only 20 coming out of Tennessee as a junior.
Those numbers are pretty amazing and he already ranks 5th all-time in career receptions for the Cowboys. Michael Irvin is first with 750 receptions but Jason will pass that total easily in a few years if he can stay healthy.
Let's look beyond the numbers for a minute to determine what makes Jason Witten such a great pass-catching tight end. First of all, just as he does as a blocker, he works tirelessly to perfect his footwork and defensive recognition. He isn't the fastest or quickest guy on the field so he has to get himself open through technique and intelligence. Really this just boils down to a guy who wants to do the little things right and is willing to work in any way he can to make himself better.
He has earned the trust of his quarterback and that is probably the most important factor to the amazing numbers he is amassing. Tony Romo knows that he can trust Jason to run the right route, make the right reads, and make the tough catch in traffic. He is the security blanket for Tony because Jason is always in the right place and finds a way to get separation from his defender.
Even before Romo became the starting quarterback Jason Witten was already putting up big numbers as a receiver. That is because he has an uncanny ability to find open spaces and get himself away from defenders. Some of that is his size and strength, but most of it just boils down to being the hardest worker on the field. He only runs a 4.7-4.8 40, but he finds a way to get himself behind the defense on seam routes. Little things with footwork and hand checks can do wonders for a receiver in terms of getting himself open and Jason is always working to improve himself in those areas.
The career stat that impresses me the most is that with 429 receptions, Jason has only fumbled 3 times. That is pretty amazing considering that he is usually catching the ball with defenders around him who are ready to lay big hits on him and try to strip the ball. His size and strength certainly play a role in it but he also has the awareness to protect the ball when defenders are near him.
So far I've talked about Jason Witten in terms of technique and statistics, but in my next entry I'll discuss how tough he is. When you see the list of injuries he has played through you will be pretty amazed at the toughness and desire he possesses if you don't already know.