Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (R) looks to gain a first down while Arizona Cardinals Dominique Ridgers-Cromartie (L) looks to stop him in the first quarter of the Cardinals-Cowboys game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ December 25, 2010. UPI/Art Foxall
For the second time in his eight-year career, Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten has been named first-team All-Pro. Witten is a seven-time Pro-Bowl player.
The 28 year old Witten caught 94 passes for 1,002 yards, leading all tight ends in both categories. Only All-Pro wide receivers Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcons and Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts caught more than 94 passes in 2010. This was the third time Witten surpassed 1,000 yards receiving. He also scored a career high nine touchdowns.
Witten’s 617 career receptions ranks him fourth all-time among NFL tight ends. He only needs 45 catches to surpass Ozzie Newsome and move into third place on the list.
The Dallas Cowboys have a rich tradition at the tight end position, boasting such players as Mike Ditka, Billy Joe DuPree and Jay Novacek.
Ditka is in the NFL Hall of Fame. He played in Dallas the last four years of his career. DuPree played all of his eleven years for the Cowboys. Novacek was in Dallas for six seasons, and one of quarterback Troy Aikman’s favorite targets. Of the three, only Mike Ditka ever surpassed 1,000 yards receiving in a season . He did that his rookie year with the Chicago Bears.
With 6,967 yards receiving, Jason Witten has already passed all of his predecessors for career yardage. Witten, so far, has 36 career touchdown receptions. The only Cowboys’ tight ends to catch more in a career was Mike Ditka and Jay Novacek. It took Ditka 12 years to catch 43. Novacek caught 41 TDs in 11 seasons.
Of course, the tight end position and the passing game in general were very different in Ditka’s day, and the 9’0s Cowboys of Jay Novacek featured Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher for a reason. Those Cowboys believed in establishing the run early and closing out games by pounding the ball on the ground. Jason Witten is the beneficiary of a more wide-open, pass-oriented offensive scheme.
Still, Witten has done what he has done and no one can take that from him. Plenty of tight ends play on passing teams. But there is only one Jason Witten.
In a down year that saw the Cowboys make a midseason coaching change for the first time in the club’s 51 year history, Witten was a rare bright spot. Even after his friend and quarterback Tony Romo suffered a season-ending injury in week 6, Witten continued to shine.
He caught touchdown passes from three quarterbacks in 2010.
While his team tries to re-group and get on the right track under new head coach Jason Garrett, Jason Witten just keeps building the kind of resumé that should land him in the NFL Hall of Fame when he is done.