Miles Austin might as well have been called the invisible man considering his lack of productivity in the past two seasons in Dallas. However, his departure has created an opportunity for a young receiver to add some luster to the Star… his name is Dwayne Harris.
Harris came to the Cowboys via the 2011 draft class, which also included offensive tackle Tyron Smith and starting running back DeMarco Murray. Although his first season with Dallas wasn’t anything to write home about, he did end up returning for a sophomore year with the ‘Boys and began to assert his value on special teams. In week 10 of the 2012 campaign, Harris returned a punt return for a touchdown that broke a fourth quarter tie against the rival Philadelphia Eagles and led to him being named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
His electrifying presence on special teams has continued to pay dividends for Dallas in ways that haven’t been seen in that role since Deion Sanders or Kenny “the shark” Gant.
In the 2013 season opener against the Giants, Harris showed his versatility by recording three special teams tackles, one of which helped create one of six G-Men turnovers on the night. His efforts earned him the second of his three NFC Special Teams Player of the Week awards. The third would come in week six against the Redskins when he gained 222 return yards, including an 88-yard punt return for touchdown and a 90-yard kickoff return.
Although Harris’ presence was apparent on special teams in 2013, his appearances at wide-out were limited. However he added to his resume by being the recipient of Tony Romo’s game winning touchdown pass at AT&T Stadium against the Minnesota Vikings on November 3.
With the Cowboys in bargain-hunting mode, it would seem that giving Harris more shots to contribute as a receiver would be a move worth making. Although the starting duo of Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams is most probably set in stone, Harris’ play making ability could translate into some big play opportunities. Given his instinctive ability to find a hole and follow a block, he could be an especially productive contributor when employing the screen pass. Making him the third receiver in the rotation would not only save a draft pick that is sorely needed on the defensive side of the ball, it would give a deserving diamond in the rough a chance to shine.
The only down side to utilizing Harris more on offense would be the potential for injury, which could be devastating considering his value on special teams. When he was absent from his return role at the end of 2013, Dallas’ threat at that position was hampered severely. That being said, rolling the dice on Harris as a third receiver would seem to be worth the risk in terms of productivity and is only fair for a player that has proven his value to the team on more than one occasion.
Whatever the Cowboys decide to do in terms of Harris’ position on the 2014 roster, they should be thankful that #17 is wearing the Star.