Rookie TE starting to catch on with Cowboys

Cowboys rookie tight end Gavin Escobar admits cooking isn’t his best skill. He would much rather drive through Chick-Fil-A or In-N-Out Burger. But fried-chicken sandwiches and cheeseburgers aren’t on team nutritionist Amy Goodson’s list of approved foods.

So Escobar’s best efforts in the kitchen are broccoli, baked chicken, rice and baked potatoes.

“Pretty simple stuff,” Escobar said. “I’m trying to do better at cooking healthier instead of eating out. We’ve got to work on that.”

Escobar has the same attitude on the practice field: He is working on improving his skills, especially as a blocker.

The Cowboys were enamored with Escobar’s receiving ability enough to make him a second-round pick. They got a glimpse last weekend against the Cardinals of what they hope is more to come when Escobar caught five passes for 32 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown.

“That’s what we saw coming out of school — a very natural pass catcher,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “When the ball comes for him, he just has a really good feel for finishing the play, but it’s more than that. I think he has a good feel for route running, getting himself open both in man and zone coverage.

“He’s learning to play with more urgency. That’s one of the big transitions for everybody coming out of school, just the pace that you have to play at at this level — getting out of your stance, getting out of your break, all those things. Guys play with a lot of intensity and urgency at this level, and young guys transitioning need to understand that. I think he’s getting that the more he’s competing against our guys. I think that showed up in the game the other day.”

“… He’s quarterback friendly, and he’s also big and long, so you can throw the ball and he kind of creates some separation away from the defender even if it’s tight coverage. He’s done a good job. I thought it was clearly his best receiving game the other day.”

The Cowboys see the tight end they bypassed in the first round — Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert — on Saturday when the Bengals come to town. The Cowboys rated Eifert the 15th-best player in the draft — the only tight end they gave a first-round grade — but they traded down from 18th and took center Travis Frederick 31st overall. That was 10 picks after the Bengals took Eifert.

The Cowboys selected Escobar 47th overall with plans to use more 12 personnel — one running back, two tight ends — this season. A year ago, with John Phillips joining Jason Witten and James Hanna at tight end, Dallas ran only 195 plays with two tight ends, throwing it only 74 times.

“He’s going to have a role on this team,” Witten said of Escobar. “He needs to learn as quickly as he can.”

Escobar lacks the strength, the technique and the experience to be used much as a blocker yet. He didn’t do much blocking in college.

His technique is getting better, but the strength won’t come until an off-season with strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik.

For now, what he can offer the Cowboys is what he showed Saturday when he caught a short pass from Alex Tanney in the left flat and dove into the end zone.

That’s where he does his best cooking.

“That’s what I did in college, and that’s definitely my strength, at least immediately,” Escobar said. “So we’ll see how it all shapes up in the season. I’m hoping you can expect catches.”

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