When talking to the media on the Dallas Cowboys’ opening day of rookie minicamp, head coach Mike McCarthy addressed one particular need that has flown under the radar this offseason.
Fans in Dallas have been mostly concerned about offensive and defensive positions, and even special teams discussions have centered almost exclusively around the question mark at kicker. But what about punt return duties?
Last year, CeeDee Lamb (14) and Cedrick Wilson (11) led the team in returns by a wide margin. Now that Lamb will likely become WR1, it’s fair to assume his responsibilities under John Fassel will significantly decrease. In a league often defined by a team’s health status, risking your top pass-catcher on special teams is not optimal.
Meanwhile, Wilson is now a Miami Dolphin. So, who will emerge as the Cowboys’ starting punt returner in 2022?
Judging by McCarthy’s comments, the answer might not be on the roster yet.
CeeDee Lamb ascended to starting flanker. Cedrick Wilson is on Dolphins. So, who will be Cowboys' punt returner in 2022? Mike McCarthy: "As Stephen [Jones] says all the time, and it's so true, player acquisition never stops. That's definitely something we've got to get answered."— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) May 13, 2022
The only other Cowboys with punt returns in 2021 are Trevon Diggs and Nahshon Wright, who combined for three total. In kickoff duty, Tony Pollard led the team with 17 returns with Corey Clement returning 11 of his own. Pollard has never returned punts in the pros and had only two in Memphis.
By the sound of it, the Cowboys will have to look for some speed and play-making ability in free agency or hope for a young player to step up in the offseason. This is where some UDFA could end up with an unexpected 53-man roster spot.
Fassel has done enough to deserve trust out of Cowboys Nation. In each of his two seasons in Dallas, the Cowboys have ranked in the Top 7 in special teams efficiency measured by DVOA.
However, punt return remains an area of opportunity for the special teams’ coordinator. Right now, the priority seems to be finding someone to replace Lamb and Wilson as punt returners.
Featured image via Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports