Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Belichick well-aware of Witten's impact

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick defined Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten as “a guy you have to be aware of all the time.”

Belichick and his Patriots, coming off 30-21 victory over the New York Jets Sunday, will try their hand against Dallas this coming weekend, and Belichick knows Witten is a focal point in the Cowboys’ offense.

“Witten's really an outstanding player,” Belichick told the New England media Tuesday via conference call. “I think he's one of the best tight ends in the league, no question about it. He also complements a lot of other players they have and that multiples there create a lot of problems.”

Witten is so critical to Dallas’ offense because he’s not a one-trick tight end like many in the league. He can block just as well as he can catch, and he can catch just as well as he can block.

The Patriots have done a pretty good job shutting down tight ends so far this season, though Witten requires different attention than players like San Diego Chargers’ Antonio Gates and New York Jets’ Dustin Keller, both of whom New England kept in check this year, because he’s more involved in the run game. That gives Dallas more opportunities to get him in mismatches because he doesn’t tip run or pass as much.

“He's a very good point of attack blocker. They run behind him so you have to deal with him in the running game,” Belichick said. “In the passing game, he's really good in all three areas. He's good on the short routes and he's a hard guy to tackle. He's good on the intermediate routes and he can get down the field.”

The veteran tight end had a big reception early against the Jets in Week 1 that went for 64 yards, which was a specific play Belichick noted when explaining Witten’s versatility in running routes.

“They move him around a lot. They put him in motion, put him outside, put him in inside, put him in the slot,” Belichick said. “They have different personnel groups where they use him in conjunction with other tight ends and other receivers. It just makes it a little harder to figure out where he is and how to get him.”

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