Things haven't gone as planned for Blake Jarwin in 2021, but he'll soon have a shot at writing a great ending to his latest chapter in Dallas. The veteran tight end has been on injured reserve since suffering a hip injury in the Week 8 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, having now missed the last nine outings, a number that will rise to 10 when the Dallas Cowboys travel to take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 18 without him.
But he's officially on the road back to the playing field this week -- shortly after the team lost one of Dak Prescott's key targets in Michael Gallup, to the Arizona Cardinals. On Tuesday, Jarwin was designated to return from injured reserve, the team announced, and that kicks open a 21-day window in which he'll be allowed to practice before the Cowboys are forced to either activate him to the 53-man roster or return him to IR.
His 21-day window will expire on Jan. 25, and the NFL playoffs begin for the Cowboys the weekend of Jan. 14.
The talented tight end looked forward to regaining prime form in 2021, after suffering a torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season -- thrusting backup Dalton Schultz into the lead role. Schultz went on to have a breakout season that's rolled over into the current one, while Jarwin saw his targets dwindle in his bid to again become a key piece of the offense. His latest injury kept the door open for Schultz to truly dig in as TE1 in what is a contract season for the former fourth-round pick, but there's not been a lot of production behind him on the depth chart.
Jeremy Sprinkle and promising upstart Sean McKeon currently combine for just 48 receiving yards and one touchdown through 16 games and, for contrast, Jarwin produced 90 receiving yards and two touchdowns in only five starts (263 offensive snaps/50%). It is as clear who's now TE1 in Dallas as it is who's TE2, and the Cowboys will welcome Jarwin back with open arms in January.
Jarwin has proven himself a playmaker when given the chance and was one of Prescott's favorite targets in the past, but in his absence, Schultz took a gargantuan leap forward and finally established himself as a viable starter in the league as well. Schultz took full advantage of his 14 starts in 2020, delivering career-highs in receiving yards (618) and touchdowns (four) despite a carousel of mostly dismal quarterback play following the loss of Prescott to a season-ending injury in Week 5. At this point, the only thing that can move Schultz out of the No. 1 role is injury or free agency, but what Jarwin can bring to the table can't be ignored.
He's one more weapon that has to be accounted for by opposing defenses, and he's returning at a time when the Cowboys offense desperately needs to get back to imposing its will on others.