Cowboys’ Jake Ferguson quietly leading NFL TEs in key category

Jake Feguson has been a breath of fresh air in Dallas in 2023. The second-year TE out of Wisconsin picked up where he left off, turning a promising rookie season into a bona fide Day-3 draft success story for the Cowboys.

Averaging nearly eight targets per game over the last five weeks, Ferguson has been a cornerstone piece in the Cowboys gameplan. Graded as one of the better blockers in the NFL and one of the best all-around players at his position, Ferguson is primed for a big game in Week 18 and into the postseason.

One of the more surprising developments from this season is Ferguson’s target rate inside the red zone. At 22 red-zone targets and counting, Ferguson leads NFL tight ends in this high-impact category. Jason Kelce trails Ferguson with 19, David Njoku is third at 16 and Sam LaPorta is a distant fourth at 14.

Part of the reason the Cowboys’ rookie, second-round pick Luke Schoonmaker can’t get on the field much this season is because of Ferguson’s development. Entering this season, even some of his biggest supporters felt TE2 was his likely future. 16 games through the 2023 season and most will agree his ceiling has unquestionably risen and Ferguson is a true TE1.

The number of red-zone targets speaks volumes for the young TE. The Cowboys, and specifically Dak Prescott, trust him when the stakes are highest. Despite his inexperience, they aren’t afraid to target him inside the 20.

Entering the postseason, it’s a role that only stands to grow. Teams found success limiting the explosive Dallas offense with heavy shell looks in coverage. With two-deep safety coverage, defenses have been taking away the big play and asking Prescott and company to play a more patient game targeting short routes and the middle of the field. Big plays can be had here and on more than one occasion Ferguson and Prescott where a fraction of an inch away from connecting on big plays up the seam. It’s only a matter of time before these plays start to connect again.

It’s tough to call the man who leads his position group in red zone targets a postseason sleeper, but that’s exactly what Ferguson appears to be this year.

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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire