By A. Sherrod Blakely
Another week, another talented tight end up for the New England Patriots to face.
But this week's talented tight end - Dallas' Jason Witten - presents a host of challenges for the Patriots in both the passing and running game.
"He's outstanding," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "He's a guy you have to be aware of, all the time. The big thing that separates Witten from a lot of tight ends is his blocking ability. He's a very good point-of-attack blocker."
Despite their record, the Cowboys (2-2) are among the NFL's top teams offensively.
They average 417.8 yards of total offense per game, which ranks sixth in the NFL.
And while the 7-time Pro Bowler plays a vital role in the Cowboys running attack, his ability as a pass-catcher is even more impressive. He leads the Cowboys in catches (27) and yards receiving (366) this season, getting it done in a variety of ways.
"He's good on the short routes; he's a hard guy to tackle. He's good on the intermediate routes and he can get down field," Belichick said. "He's really a complete player."
But Witten isn't the first talented tight end the Patriots have faced this season.
In Week 2, San Diego's Antonio Gates came in as one of the NFL's leading receivers among tight ends.
Against the Patriots, he didn't have a single catch.
In Sunday's 30-21 win over the New York Jets, New York came in with one of the league's better tight end targets in Dustin Keller.
After averaging more than three catches and nearly 50 yards receiving prior to facing the Patriots, the New England defense limited Keller to just one catch for seven yards.
Gates and Keller may be both be talented, but containing Witten - Tony Romo's favorite target - will be an even bigger challenge for the Pats.
"Witten really is an outstanding player," Belichick said. "He's one of the best tight ends in the league, no question."