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Tony Romo: Jason Witten will pick up where he left off

Jason Witten took a year sabbatical in a television booth and hasn't played a regular-season game since Dec. 31, 2017.

After unretiring to return to the Dallas Cowboys this year, his former QB and always BFF, Tony Romo, told 105.3 The Fan that Witten should have no problem jumping right back into the fray.

"He'll pick up right where he left off," Romo said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. "I don't think it's a big challenge for Jason. The reality of it is as long as, if you know the game the way he does, there are certain positions -- he plays one of them at tight end -- he's always going to have the nuance to get open. Let's say he runs the exact same he always did, to me, it's just that at that position, your ability to use leverage against somebody, make you think this and then do that. It's like the back pick in basketball. Just all of a sudden, it gets you, and you don't even know it was coming, and that guy is wide open. He's very intelligent with the game of football. I think he's going to pick up right from when he retired. I think you're going to see the same guy."

Witten generated 63 receptions on 87 targets in 2017, for 560 yards and five touchdowns. The tight end's 8.9 yards per catch was a career-low, while his receptions and yards were all the fewest since his rookie campaign.

In his past two seasons played, Witten did most of his damage without garnering a ton of separation. According to Next Gen Stats, the tight end earned just 2.5 yards of separation per target in 2017, and 3.0 in 2016. For comparison, last season among tight ends with at least 25 targets, Witten's separation of 2.5 yards would have tied him for lowest in the NFL, per NGS, with Antonio Gates and O.J. Howard. Rob Gronkowski earned 2.6 yards of separation last year.

As Romo noted, tight ends don't always need separation to be productive, and Witten can make himself available with technique and his box-out ability. How effective he'll be in a lesser role will be a bigger question. After playing 990 snaps in 2017, the Cowboys are expecting Witten to play a rotational role in 2019 along with Blake Jarwin and Rico Gathers.

Witten might not be the machine he was early in his career, but with a better receiver corps starring Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb, the Cowboys don't need spectacular. They need a veteran to exploit the middle and make himself available for Dak Prescott when needed.

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