football-player football-score football-helmet football-ball Accuracy Arm-Strength Balance Ball-Security Ball-Skills Big-Play-Ability Block-Deconstruction Competitive-Toughness Core-Functional-Strength Decision-Making Discipline Durability Effort-Motor Elusivness Explosiveness Football-IQ Footwork Functional-Athleticism Hand-Counters Hand-Power Hand-Technique Hands Lateral-Mobility Leadership Length Mechanics Mobility Pass-Coverage-Ability Pass-Protection Pass-Sets Passing-Down-Skills Pocket-Manipulation Poise Power-at-POA Progressions RAC-Ability Range Release-Package Release Route-Running Run-Defending Separation Special-Teams-Ability-1 Versatility Vision Zone-Coverage-Skills Anchor-Ability Contact-Balance Man-Coverage-Skills Tackling Lifted Logic Web Design in Kansas City clock location phone email play chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up facebook tiktok checkbox checkbox-checked radio radio-selected instagram google plus pinterest twitter youtube send linkedin search arrow-circle bell left-arrow right-arrow tdn-mark filled-play-circle yellow-arrow-circle dark-arrow-circle star cloudy snowy rainy sunny plus minus triangle-down link close drag minus-circle plus-circle pencil premium trash lock simple-trash simple-pencil eye cart

Who Should Return Punts For Cowboys In 2022?

  • Justin Melo
  • May 20, 2022
  • Share

The Dallas Cowboys are searching for a new punt returner ahead of the 2022 regular season. The Cowboys ranked 30th in the league last season with a rather pedestrian average of 6.6 yards per punt return. The Miami Dolphins were equally as poor (6.6) and the Los Angeles Chargers were the lone team to field a worse game-by-game average (5.9) than the Cowboys did. CeeDee Lamb and Cedrick Wilson Jr. have handled punt return duties over the previous two seasons, but the role is seemingly up for grabs going forward. 

Wilson departed the Cowboys earlier this offseason for a larger opportunity with the Dolphins, and Lamb has stepped into Dallas’ starring passing-game role following a trade that sent Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns. Lamb has correctly been deemed too important to risk his health on special teams.

Among the remaining candidates, and we’ll get to the rest of them shortly, running back Tony Pollard currently represents the best option to become Dallas’ new punt returner. Pollard has plenty of experience as Dallas’ kickoff returner dating back to his 2019 rookie season. Pollard was a relatively effective kick returner in 2021, averaging 28.8 yards per return on 17 opportunities and scoring one touchdown. Returning punts is an entirely different job altogether, but Pollard has received looks at the position throughout practice reps in recent years and can conceivably make a transition to handling punt return duties on a full-time basis. 

Pollard is a dynamic and elusive playmaker with the ball in his hands. Giving him more opportunities to make something dangerous happen on special teams would be a quality idea.

Starting cornerback Trevon Diggs returned two punts in 2021, but his situation is eerily similar to Lamb’s. Diggs enjoyed his most fruitful professional campaign in 2021, having recorded a league-leading 11 interceptions en route to capturing his first Pro Bowl appearance and First-Team All-Pro honors. Diggs is far too important to the overall success of Dallas’ defense to risk injury on special teams. 

A trio of undrafted free agents represents the best other potential candidates. Former Ole Miss wide receiver Dontario Drummond returned five punts for the Rebels in 2021 and has nine total career returns under his belt. It’s not an abundance of experience, but it should be enough to earn him a look at the position throughout OTAs and training camp. Fellow receiver Ty Fryfogle returned three punts for the Indiana Hoosiers last season, but was rather ineffective, losing a total of five yards. Defensive back Juanyeh Thomas out of Georgia Tech has 40 total career kick and punt returns on his resume, but the majority of them occurred during his freshman season in 2018—and he hasn’t returned a single punt since 2019. All three players will receive opportunities to field punts throughout the summer months. 

The Cowboys must field a more effective punt return unit in 2022 than they did in 2021 after ranking among the worst in the league. Their search for a new punt returner qualifies as rather timely given their overall ineffectiveness last season. Several athletic playmakers are expected to receive an opportunity to prove themselves worthy, but Pollard represents the most straightforward and realistic option.

Filed In

Written By

Justin Melo