The Dallas Cowboys took a flier late in the 2011 NFL Draft (sixth round) on a smallish receiver out of East Carolina. Standing at 5 ft 10 in tall and weighing around 200 pounds, the Cowboys decided to give Dwayne Harris an opportunity to become a member of America’s Team. While not possessing great speed or size, the Cowboys had seen enough tape on him to think he could be a return man on special teams and add depth and youth to the receiving corp.
After surviving the final roster cut down heading into the 2011 season, Harris was happy to be a member of the Cowboys. He was being coached up and developed in the first part of the season. Unfortunately in the middle of October, Harris was released by the Cowboys to add guard Daniel Loper to the active roster. The next day Harris was added to the practice squad. In mid December Harris was called back to the active roster, and was used in the return game where he showed some ability. Harris finished the season with a total of eight kickoff returns and fifteen punt returns.
After Laurent Robinson’s free agent defection to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cowboys not signing or drafting a replacement, the Cowboys wanted one of the players on the roster to step up into the third receiver role. Heading into training camp for the 2012 NFL season, Harris was one of about ten players vying for five or six spots in the receiving corp. Besides Austin and Bryant, none of the receivers stepped up to really grab the third spot. Thus the Cowboys trimmed the receiving corp to six players heading into the season opener, and they were as follows:
The Cowboys decided to go long at this position with the hopes that someone would step up early in the season to separate themselves into the third role. In late November, the Cowboys finally trimmed this number to five as a roster spot was needed for depth purposes on other parts of the roster that had been decimated by injuries.
While Kevin Ogletree had a great first game against the Giants, he hasn’t had a big role on this year’s team. Starting with the Cowboys game against Cleveland in Week 11, Harris has been getting looks from Romo and his role has been expanding. Harris has the ability to play all three receiving spots and his versatility and play making ability have really helped the Cowboys down the stretch of this season. In the past six games he has 16 catches on 27 targets for a total of 197 yards and a touchdown.
Harris looks to be a piece the team will have more involved in the offense going forward, while also being key in the future as the roster continues to evolve. While we don’t know how large his role will be, Tony Romo has shown confidence to look for Harris in tight situations. This is a good development for the Cowboys as it took longer than probably any felt it would, but the team looks to finally have found their third wide receiver.
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