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Who Will Handle KR/PR Duties for the Cowboys in 2021?

It's no secret that duties are a big part of roster-building decisions for all NFL teams. One area where the Cowboys have not had consistency lately is with kickoff and punt returners. Who are the early favorites to handle those jobs in 2021?

It's been a while since Dallas had a true fixture in the KR/PR roles. was the last guy to do them at a high level; a true special teams ace from 2011-2014 for the Cowboys. Nobody has touched his proficiency in the return game since.

Since Harris we've seen a variety of efforts. Some seasons there's been a designated return specialist like or , while other years the Cowboys have taken a committee approach. Various players like , , , , and others have moved in and out of these duties depending on health and performance.

In Beasley's case, Dallas was essentially waving a white flag on any hope of a punt return and just trusting him to make the fair catches. It was a bit discouraging.

Last season we saw more of the committee approach. RB handled the majority of kickoffs and WR took most of the punts, but RB and WR got some opportunities as well. All of these players are back with the Cowboys in 2021.

Nobody stood out as being exceptionally gifted with return ability. The one touchdown was a fluke; Lamb was in on the “hands team” for an onside kick against the 49ers and had an easy lane open up for him. But nobody is coming into this season as a clear favorite.

Who Will Handle KR/PR Duties for the Cowboys in 2021?
Possible Cowboys return men: Tony Pollard, CeeDee Lamb, & Cedrick Wilson

The good news for the Cowboys is that these are all players who should make the 2021 roster for other needs as well. Pollard and Lamb are obvious locks at their positions and Wilson is a heavy favorite to be the fourth receiver. Dowdle will likely be RB3 but has to be concerned about Dallas only keeping two running backs, which they've done in the past with Pollard and .

One of the best ways for an undrafted rookie to fight his way onto the roster is through special teams but none of the current crop were prolific return men in college. RB Brenden Knox out of Marshall has some experience on kickoffs but may not have the speed to challenge Dowdle or Pollard.

Lamb could still be used on punt returns so long as is around. It's a lot harder for teams to risk a starter on special teams unless they're truly special in the job, but having Gallup allows the Cowboys to gamble a little more with CeeDee's athletic gifts.

As we saw with a young back in 2010-2012, special teams work for CeeDee will likely go down as his offensive role and importance increases. Dez didn't record a single kick or punt return from 2013 onward; just his fourth season in the NFL.

This will only be 's second year as Special Teams Coordinator, meaning he's still in the process of evaluating talent and fully installing his vision. And now that there will be less restrictions due to , Fassel may be able to bring about greater change in some areas with more practice opportunities.

Will Tony Pollard and CeeDee Lamb still handle most returns in 2021 or will someone new emerge? And whoever it is, will they provide a consistent threat as a returner or remain more of an afterthought?

It's a part of the game where the could definitely use some improvement this season.

Jess Haynie
Jess Haynie
Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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gary b

I’m not sure Pollard is a lock for KO returns. He looked pretty shaky in that capacity last year. That said KO returns are rarely a factor anyway with most being booted out of the end zone. Punt returns on the other hand can influence games field position wise. I was always surprised Beasley didn’t have more of an impact in this area due to his shiftiness and short area quickness. Lamb is a consideration due to his terrific hands, but not sure i wanna risk an injury there.

Dave SC58

Rico Dowdle is the best option for the kick return game.

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