Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Player Profile: Martellus Bennett


Martellus Bennett
Position: Tight End
Size: 6'7, 265
Age: 23, 3/10/87
College: Texas A&M
Drafted: Round 2, #61 - 2008
Experience: 3 Seasons

Salary History and Contract Status: 1 year left on his 4 year rookie contract. 2011: $555,000. 2012: Restricted Free Agency

2008 Draft Profile From OurLads: (Top ranked TE) Martellus Bennett, 6'6/259, 4.73 - Junior Entry. Started 24 games over three years. Good athlete that is only limited with his work ethic. Former Aggie basketball player has all the athletic skills required for the position. Will reach and extend for the ball. Will line up in the slot to create a mismatch. Works back to the ball. Keeps a good base in pass protection. Big target with better than average speed. Just learning how to play the game. Pass patterns need to be refined as does his ability to create space from a defender and get open. Can change direction without wasted movement. Soft, natural hands. Secure after the catch. Athletic after catch. Needs to get more upper and lower body strength as an inline blocker. Would like to see more determination as a blocker. Plays balanced and with knee bend. Light feet. Can find the open spots in the short zones. Is a vertical threat because of size and speed. Improved field awareness. 49 catches and 4 touchdowns in 2007. Second/Third Round.

Pre-2010: Everything with Martellus Bennett starts with a discussion about why the Cowboys needed to draft a Tight End in the 2008 Draft to begin with. Anthony Fasano was Jason Witten's backup and was about to enter his 3rd year with the Cowboys and for reasons that still seem somewhat unclear, the Cowboys dealt him to Miami the night before the draft along with Akin Ayodele for a 4th Round pick. Some thought it was a trade to regain a 4th Round pick that they just spent to acquire Pac Man Jones. Others wondered why they would create an opening at TE that didn't exist. Regardless, we soon saw the Cowboys plan was to spend a premium pick on a local Tight End - Bennett from Texas A&M (instead of another local TE - Jermichael Finely of Texas selected in the 3rd Round). Bennett in college always seemed like a tease - exceptional talent without exceptional production. If that could happen in the NFL, the Cowboys would have an absolutely unrivaled TE combo. But, in 2008 and 2009, the Cowboys received very little in terms of production from Bennett. 20 catches in 2008 at least included 4 Touchdowns. But, 2009 the production actually regressed to 15 catches. It should be pointed out that he is thought of as an exceptional run blocker - constantly grading out as one of the best at his position in the entire league - and the Cowboys power run game in 2 TE personnel was tops in the league. But, you don't even consider taking a run-blocking TE in the 2nd Round of the NFL Draft. On top of that, one of the other top blocking TE's in the NFL according to the graders at ProFootballFocus.com over the last 3 seasons? Fasano in Miami.

2010: To make the case that Martellus Bennett doesn't help this team would be absolutely wrong in my estimation. Every time the Cowboys bust a run of any substance, there is a very good chance that Bennett is partially responsible. Not only that, but in 2 years of grading and examining blame for sacks, I have yet to find a pass protection assignment that Martellus failed that resulted in a sack. But, again, their dream of having Bennett flying down the seam of the defense stressing the safeties has never come close to developing again in 2010. Things went south in Game 4 versus the Tennessee Titans when a few passes for Bennett were intercepted. Once Tony Romo, who never seemed to have faith in Bennett to begin with, lost whatever faith remained in Bennett and once the season disintegrated to 1-7, it just appeared that the simplification of the offense cost Martellus any remaining opportunities with the ball save for the occasional dump off into the flat when pressure was getting to the QB. He never appeared to be the intended receiver on a play and by the end of the season looked like a typical blocking TE in this league - not a dynamic and versatile secret weapon that he was intended to be in 2008 on draft day.

2011 Analysis: This will be his last, big chance to demonstrate to not only the Cowboys - but the entire NFL - that he can be a big-time do-everything Tight End. It is reasonable to assume that if he has a year that shows he can be a receiving threat and a trust-worthy blocker then he will receive plenty of interest from around the league for his services. If that happens, the Cowboys would be tempted to let him go assuming Jason Witten shows no signs of diminishing skills. He is still very young and has all of the tools to develop into the role. But, sooner or later, he will become a candidate for a change of scenery because at this point you could make the case that John Phillips could fill all of the responsibilities that "Marty B" has supplied to this point of his Cowboys career. Time is certainly running out for Martellus to fulfill his promise on the organization.

Previous Profiles:
Doug Free
Marc Colombo
Sam Young
Alex Barron
DeMarcus Ware
Anthony Spencer
Victor Butler
Brandon Williams
Jason Witten

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