The Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL are inching closer and closer to the start of the regular season. At the end of this week, the first preseason games will be in the books and teams around the NFL will finally have some game tape to analyze and review of live game action. They will also have a better understanding of where they stand as far as the roster is concerned.
If you happened to tune in and watch the Cowboys play the San Diego Chargers Thursday night at Qualcomm Stadium, you know that the team still has a lot of work to do in order to be ready for Week One against the New York Giants.
More from The Landry Hat
- 3 ways Cowboys’ Dak Prescott can have a bounce-back season in 2023
- Cowboys News: Dallas sets pre-draft visit with potential Dalton Schultz upgrade
- NFL executives heaping praise on offseason is uncharted territory for Cowboys
- 3 free agent signings from NFC East rivals that left Cowboys fans laughing
- Cowboys News: Brandin Cooks sends flattering message to CeeDee Lamb, Stephon Gilmore
If you’re anything like me you enjoy watching the so-called meaningless preseason games. I like to watch the players that we’ve all read about throughout organized team activities (OTA’s) and training camp, and finally see how they perform when the big lights come on and they are lined up against other NFL hopefuls.
There are always certain players that you want to keep an eye on. For me, one player in particular that I wanted to watch was undrafted rookie and potential favorite to win the job as the Cowboys return specialist, Lucky Whitehead.
With the exodus of formal wide receiver/return specialist Dwayne Harris to the division rival New York Giants, the job to become the primary return man for the team is up for grabs.
Whitehead has become somewhat of a fan favorite and has been spoken of favorably thus far throughout training camp practices as someone who can possibly come in and replace the departed Harris.
Is he a favorite because it is flowing dreadlocks, much like Harris, or is it his skill set/talent that makes him a legitimate contender to win the job?
Like many rookies making their debut in the NFL there was both good and bad. Fortunately for Whitehead, I personally think that the good outweighs the bad.
Whitehead was able to show that he absolutely has the talent needed to become the Cowboys primary return man, but he definitely has to be more aware of the importance of ball security, especially at the NFL level.
In the second quarter Whitehead was able to finally showcase his explosiveness and vision on his second punt return attempt. Unfortunately, the 19-yard return resulted in a fumble.
These types of turnovers are one of the fastest ways to lose your job as a return man in the NFL.
Fortunately for Whitehead, it really wasn’t a matter of him carrying the ball loosely or haphazardly, but really just a good heads-up play by the special teams of San Diego Chargers. The Charger’s special team player was able to reach in and knocked the ball away from Whitehead when he was fighting for extra yards.
This is a correctable mistake. I’m sure that special teams coach Rich Bisaccia will work with him and other candidates competing for the return man position and stress the importance of not only securing the ball, but knowing when to fight for extra yardage and knowing when to go down.
Whitehead was however able to show his resilience when he rebounded after his fumble and return his next kickoff for 38 yards.
This was something I was actually really pleased to see. He didn’t dwell on the fact that he turned the ball over, but rather gathered his composure and tried to redeem himself in the eyes of the coaching staff and his teammates.
With about a month still to go until the regular season kicks off, the Cowboys coaching staff and players have a lot of work to do to correct mistakes and improve the team. This is especially true for special teams and the return game.
The competition to win the return job may come down to a numbers game, depending on how many players the team chooses to keep his position. They could also try and trade for a more established player that could help the team out in other areas, not just as a returner.
As it stands now, it still looks as if it is Whitehead’s job to lose but things can change in the drop of a hat.
It has been discussed that All-Pro wide receiver Dez Bryant could be used as a returner depending on the circumstances and wide receiver Cole Beasley has shown in the past that he is capable of filling in.
Ideally, I wouldn’t want Bryant or Beasley as the return man simply because I think they are going to be a big part of what offensive coordinator Scott Linehan wants to accomplish in 2015.
Bryant is a cowboys only true number one receiver and arguably one of the best receivers in the NFL. I wouldn’t want to risk him suffering an injury, even though he has a dynamic punt returner.
Beasley’s role within the offense has expanded and he has earned the trust of quarterback Tony Romo. When it comes to converting third downs, Romo tends to look Beasley’s way more times than not.
America’s Team has the rest of training camp and the remaining preseason games to determine exactly what they want to do in regards to who will fill the void left by Dwayne Harris.
Field position in the NFL is often overlooked aspect of the game by many fans, but I can guarantee that the coaches fully understand its importance.
It is because of this that I will be keeping a close eye on the candidates that can become the Cowboys primary return man in 2015.
Who would you like to see returning kickoffs and punts in the upcoming season for the Dallas Cowboys?