Igniting the Dallas Cowboys’ special teams unit

RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 01: Nyheim Hines #7 of the NC State Wolf Pack runs the ball against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Carter-Finley Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 01: Nyheim Hines #7 of the NC State Wolf Pack runs the ball against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Carter-Finley Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys have the need for more speed on offense, but the same is true on special teams and NC State running back Nyheim Hines can fix that.

The Dallas Cowboys have been lacking a football player with breakaway speed since the departure of Lance Dunbar following the 2016 regular season. Incidentally, the Cowboys went 13-3 that season and clinched home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs.

It’s a fact that speed brings an impact to the game of football that allows just a single player to make a huge impact on a contest that involves 22 different players at any given time. Whether it be a wide receiver, a running back, a punt returner or kickoff returner, a player that has speed changes the game – the only question is exactly how much.

Let me include Ezekiel Elliott as perhaps the only Cowboys offensive player with definite game-breaking speed. His 4.47 40-yard dash at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine foreshadowed things to come during a stellar rookie season that made this former Ohio State star a household name.

Having said that, Elliott can’t remain on the field for every play, despite the fact that he comes awfully close. Elliott is in every way today’s version of Emmitt Smith, the NFL all-time leading rusher and winner of three Super Bowls and four NFL rushing titles.

There’s one player in particular who the Cowboys should have a sharp eye on. His skill set is exactly what the team needs and he could emerge as a special teams ace immediately if he’s selected on Day 2 or Day 3 of the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington.

Ever heard of Nyheim Hines?

I had no clue who this junior was until just after Christmas and I’ve been more and more intrigued by his potential with the Dallas Cowboys ever since. Possibly the fastest running back in the draft, Hines can hurt opponents in every way that Dunbar used to, except the former North Carolina State speedster is actually a little bigger.

Hines takes the ball out of the backfield, catches passes and can return kickoffs and punts.

Think about players like Devin Hester and Dante Hall. The Dallas Cowboys would be wise to add a player that could do half of what these great return men did for the Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears in their respective primes.

Yes, the Dallas Cowboys added Ryan Switzer in the 2017 NFL Draft. Switzer didn’t necessarily disappoint during his rookie season and he, like Hines, made his name in North Carolina, although with the Tar Heels instead of the Wolfpack. Switzer scored his only touchdown on a punt return against the Washington Redskins, but was otherwise a non-factor in the Dallas offense as a rookie.

Well, Hines is faster than Switzer will ever be and I think there’s room for both on the Dallas special teams – and maybe in the offense – moving forward. Switzer is a receiver who’s a punt return specialist and Hines is a running back who specializes in returning kickoffs – he took two kickoffs back for touchdowns and also a punt while with NC State.

Hines will likely be available as late as the fourth round and the Cowboys might well be looking for a third running back to replace names like Darren McFadden, now retired, and Alfred Morris, a powerful veteran runner who is probably headed elsewhere in 2018.

It’s been a long time since the Cowboys featured the element of speed on offense or special teams. When I mention names like Deion Sanders, Raghib ‘Rocket’ Ismail, ‘Bullet’ Bob Hayes and even Alexander Wright, there’s instant memories of big plays that come to mind.

Next: 2018 NFL Mock Draft - Full first round

So make that offense as ‘Dak Friendly’ as possible. Another way to do that is to bring a mismatch to the table that pays dividends as early as Week 1 of the 2018 regular season. Take a look at Nyheim Hines and ask yourself how he might help a push forward a badly overdue trip to the Super Bowl for the first time since January of 1996.