4 Fixes to the Cowboys’ Sad Return Woes
In a game that is about field position, you would think the coaches would put a serious emphasis on special teams players and their impact on the game. Instead, teams are focused on the signal callers and paying them ridiculous amounts of money that could be spread to other positions, if the QBs and agents weren’t so dang greedy. Anyway, I digress. Today’s focus is on Special Teams. The Dallas Cowboys were dead last in return yards in 2019. How will new Coach Mike McCarthy address what appears as Dallas’ weak link?
In 2019, the team averaged 15-yards per return, setting up Dak Prescott and company in terrible field position. Names like Jakeem Grant, Mecole Hardman, Jamal Agnew, and Cordarrelle Patterson are not household names, but they know how to return a ball. Each of them posted +100-yard return-TDs on the season. Dallas had a long of 30-yards the whole season. Tony Pollard led “Dem Boyz” in returns with 14 but only had 7-returns over 20-yards. This cannot be the norm in 2020 if the team wants to be successful. Let’s take a look at McCarthy’s special team’s track record when it comes to ST.
In 2014, the coach was second to last in the league in KRs with 19.1 yards a game. That number climbed up to 24.5-YPR in 2015, went back down to 19.7 in ’16, 21.7 in ’17 and 21.5 in ’18. Obviously, these are not glaring numbers. The former GB Coach needs to make this a priority in the draft in order to do what Dallas does best; run the football. In order to do that, let’s take a look at this year’s draft for the answer. Here is a list of the guys who could lead the charge on turning the return game around for “Big D”.
Jalen Reagor – Texas Christian University
This pocket monster has straight-line speed for days. Punt returns are where this guy excels at. When you see eye-popping returns average of 30.3 and 30.5 YPR, you immediately think “money!” I believe the jury is still out on the hands of this guy but this former Hornfrog could easily fix the return issue. Here is what Crabbs of the Draft Network had to say about the draft prospect:
“Natural instinct here to win on different levels shows good understanding of when he’s got leverage and how to sell defenders on something other than his true intent. Much more polished and pro-ready than offense gave him the chance to showcase.”
K.J. Hamler – Penn State
Hamler is a name that has flashed across Penn State Native’s eyes for a while. His most impressive season came in his freshman year, where he racked up 523-yards on 20 returns averaging 26.2 YPR.
Jeff Thomas – Miami
“The U” Continues to produce high-flying performers, and while he may be low to the ground at 5-10, 170lbs, his return is definitely on big boy status. In 2018, Thomas averaged 26-YPR and had one punt returned for a TD.
2019 Prospect and now Free Agent Greg Dortch
I previously wrote on this guy and still believe the NFL missed on this one. Sure, he ran a 4.59-40 at the combine, but what he can do on the field versus a stopwatch is phenomenal. After bouncing from the New York Jets to the Carolina Panthers to the Los Angeles Rams, should Dallas decide to bring the second-year player in, they will not be disappointed.
Special Team Coach John Fassel needs to bang the table for one of these star-studded players in the upcoming draft if he is looking to change the Cowboys culture in the return game.