The Las Vegas Raiders shocked the NFL world by signing 17-year veteran Jason Witten. Not only did this shock the league, but it left fans wondering what the purpose of the move was. It was not clear how Witten would fit into the picture with Darren Waller and Foster Moreau already on the roster. Fast forward to the end of the 2020 season, and these same questions around Witten’s purpose seem unanswered.
Jason Witten doesn’t offer any clear strengths to the Raiders
Witten instantly assumed a featured role alongside Waller. While ’83’ made the most of his snaps, the same cannot be said about the former Dallas Cowboys tight end. Early in the season, it looked like Witten’s role was going to be primarily as a blocking tight end with a few targets in the passing game. Not only has he struggled blocking in 2020, but he was also a borderline liability.
On multiple occasions, Witten has given up crucial sacks, like he did against Buffalo and Tampa Bay. He hasn’t fared much better in the running game as we saw in the most recent game versus Los Angeles. It was also quite obvious he’s lost a step since returning to football. His game speed is quite slow and has made the coaching staff look silly anytime he sees passes his way. This should frighten fans, as there’s no obvious strength for a player that has played 366 snaps in 2020.
The former All-Pro brings veteran leadership to the tight end group
When the Raiders signed him, it looked like Witten would take a back seat to the young tight end duo and have a veteran-leader role. Bringing leadership and experience he has gained over the last two decades to this young team. Nobody will argue he’s filled that role well even if his play on the field has been subpar.
Though he has not led by example, Witten’s experience and teachings have brought Waller and Moreau along as blockers and have shown them how to exploit weaknesses in coverage. That alone should make this signing at the very least understandable.
At the same time, the veteran has pulled snaps from these studs and hasn’t provided enough value on the field. A lot happens behind closed doors, and Witten is a good teammate and a good leader. However, it is still hard to fathom as to why he sees time over any other tight end on the Raiders roster.
Jason Witten is stunting Moreau’s growth
With Waller entrenched as the team’s number one tight end, the insertion of Witten into the lineup unfortunately pushed Foster Moreau out of the equation. The sophomore tight end saw a steep decline in snaps this year due to the veteran’s presence. In the few cases Moreau has been targeted, he has shined. Tallying a 1.77 yards per route run, Moreau blows Witten’s 0.58 average out of the water.
To continue, Moreau has seen eight targets this season, resulting in six catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns. The Raiders have targeted Witten 12 times, resulting in eleven catches for a measly fifty-seven yards and two touchdowns. It is very disheartening to see a very promising player in Moreau be overshadowed by a player who is simply not as good.
The biggest problem with signing Witten is the dent he’s put on Moreau’s development as a player. Hopefully, in 2021, we will see the Raiders move their focus back to their promising tight end duo and not try to improve arguably the team’s biggest strength.
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