Witten making big strides in Dallas uniform

By Wes Holtsclaw

   This afternoon, millions of people across the United States will be eating turkey. They will also watch one of the greatest Thanksgiving Day traditions with today's NFL matchups.
   One of those games has a large impact on our community, with Elizabethton's Jason Witten sharing a national spotlight as his Dallas Cowboys host the Miami Dolphins.
   After a jaw injury earlier this season, the third-round draft pick has rebounded to become one of the premier threats on the squad.
   Before the NFL Draft this season, marquee NFL experts such as ESPN's John Clayton put down Witten because of what they called "questionable blocking ability."
   With the Dallas Cowboys this season, Witten has played well enough at the tight end position to make people question the critics.
   Last week, Witten tied Dallas tailback Troy Hambrick for the most receptions with six against a tough Carolina Panthers squad, and had a big 13-yard grab to seal the deal for his team.
   He finished the game with 49 yards receiving.
   "This was the most I've been involved since I've been here," Witten told the Dallas-Fort Worth Star Telegram's Sports Network after Sunday's game against Carolina.
   "But I knew I had to step up. [Carolina] is so good up front. We just knew we were going to have to find a way to beat them," he said. "I think it says a lot for our coaching staff, and the players to be able to adjust the way we did there in the second half. We knew we were going to pass more, and it worked."
   Witten is fifth on the squad in receiving this season with 18 grabs, which total 173 yards with a 9.6 average per catch. He has made 10 grabs in the last three games for the Cowboys.
   The only thing he doesn't have this season is a touchdown, which could come today at Texas Stadium. But he and fellow tight end Dan Campbell, have been utilized to move the chains for the team.
   That has been one of the biggest roles in the offense with quarterback Quincy Carter.
   "I really like him," Coach Bill Parcells said of Witten at Sunday's Press Conference (courtesy of DallasCowboys.com). "He's making some big plays for us. We need to keep finding ways to get him more involved in the offense. Both of those (tight ends) stepped up when we needed some plays. It's going to be like that sometimes. When things get tough, you have to find guys to make some plays."
   Jason is a part of what has become one of the biggest success stories of the NFL season with his team. Parcells has undoubtedly played a big role in that.
   Parcells has taken a losing team and made them serious playoff contenders with an 8-3 record, tied with three other teams for the NFC's best record, and tied with Philadelphia for the lead in the NFC East.
   Wins during the next two games, against Miami and Philadelphia, could make big noise for the playoffs.
   The game will be televised on CBS with a 4 p.m. slot and will be a good opportunity for people in this area to catch the Cowboys if they haven't been able to see many of their games this season.
   Witten will see lots of playing time early and is only one or two plays away from having a big, breakout game at this point of his career.
   "I'm sure they'll see that I had six catches last week and try to do their best to stay with me," Witten said of today's game (courtesy of DallasCowboys.com).
   "But if they take me out of the game or use a lot of attention to me, then we've got some other players who can make plays," he said. "If they do that, they won't be double-teaming Terry (Glenn) and Joey (Galloway) and those are two big playmakers. I don't think you can have enough weapons in this league."