Jason Witten was not just a great player for the Dallas Cowboys. He was an insanely consistent one. He missed one game as a rookie in 2003, the team’s fifth of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles. From that moment through the end of the 2017 season, Witten was on the field in every regular or postseason game that the Cowboys played in. That was 235 consecutive games played, a Cowboys record that will likely hold for decades to come. It is the 12th-longest streak in NFL history, with Jeff Feagles leading all players at 352 games and Brett Favre leading non-specialists at 297. Witten leads all tight ends, but now that he is retiring, a new generation of Cowboys is going to have to step up to replace him.
Right now, according to the NFL’s media-only statistics site, the club leader for the Cowboys is Travis Frederick. He has been in the NFL for five years and has started all 16 games in each season. That puts him at 80 consecutive games played. He isn’t the only Cowboy at that plateau, though. Terrance Williams has also played in 80 consecutive games. But he also plays far fewer snaps than Frederick, who is on the field for every player. Williams has not always been a starter, and given his mediocre play, injured foot and bizarre Lamborghini incident this offseason, may not be on the team for very much longer.
Right behind Frederick is Zack Martin. Martin was drafted a year after Frederick, but like the star center, has played in every game since the team took him in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. That puts his streak at 64 games in a row. The Cowboys have two All-Pro’s on the interior of their offensive line, but just as importantly, those All-Pro’s always play. Both of those streaks are likely to extend into the hundreds.
The only other Cowboy with a notable streak is defensive back Byron Jones. He has played in 48 straight games, all 16 in his three NFL seasons. If nothing else, the Cowboys have had a strong recent track record of picking players that stay healthy. But the fact that no other Cowboy is on a meaningful streak of consecutive games played says something about the state of this team. The last generation of Cowboys football officially left with Witten. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are gone. This is a transitional time for the team as a whole. That doesn’t mean it will be a bad one, as 2016 proved. But the roster that is formed over the next year or two is probably going to be the one that the Cowboys move forward with over the next half-decade or so. New streaks are going to start forming very quickly.