Tony Romo could be without his favorite target in the Dallas Cowboys season opener against the New York Giants.
Jason Witten's status is uncertain for the Sept. 5 matchup against the Cowboys division rivals. The tight end suffered a lacerated spleen in the team's first preseason game, and it's unknown whether or not he'll be ready to start the regular season.
In his nine years in the NFL, Witten has been one of the league's best tight ends. He's the only tight end to record over 1,000 yards in three of the last five seasons.
With question marks surrounding the health of wide receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, the Cowboys will need another tight end to step up if Witten is out for an extended period of time.
James Hanna may be the most likely candidate to get the targets that would've been intended for a healthy Witten.
The rookie was drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, and has been productive in the preseason. Hanna caught two passes for 37 yards in Dallas' 20-19 win over St. Louis. The week before, he had four receptions for 31 yards in the Cowboys loss to the Chargers.
Hanna has good hands and was very consistent in his two years as a starter at Oklahoma. His biggest weakness is his lack of speed.
Even if Witten doesn't miss a lot of time due to his injury, Hanna could very well be his eventual replacement. Heading into his 10th NFL season, it's hard to fathom Witten playing at a Pro Bowl level for much longer. Hanna is just 23 years old, and Dallas could use this as an opportunity to see if Hanna is a potential full-time starter.
John Phillips and Andrew Szczerba could also vie for playing time at tight end. However, the two have combined for just two catches in the past two games.