After Dwayne Harris settled into the offense last season, he became one of the most exciting players to watch in Dallas. The guy just has a knack for making plays. When I go back and review the 2012 tape, #17 takes advantage of the opportunities that were given to him.
Unfortunately we saw way too much of Kevin Ogletree and who knows how much better this offense would have flowed if we saw less of him and more of Harris. That question perplexed me all season long, but 2012 is over and I am ready to forgive and forget because it's time to move forward.
Entering this April's draft, wide receiver was a high priority on my shopping list. Thankfully the Dallas Cowboys had it on their own list and they landed their 23rd rated player in the third round. The addition of Terrance Williams certainly makes the depth chart more talented, but of course more crowded.
Harris now faces some serious competition and has to fight for that #3 receiving role, which is something he already realized.
"Every year, you have to fight for your job," Harris said. "They’re always drafting new guys. Every year you don’t know who they’re going to draft. When you see a receiver get drafted, you just have to go out there and do your job. Everybody has to work for what they want, so I guess that’s what it is." - DMN
Having strong competition at every position not only makes the players somewhat battle tested, it also keeps them grounded. Most of the time, having these type of depth chart battles ensures that the best players will play and the other will still have an important role somewhere along the offense or special teams.
As for Harris, he can contribute in either area and he's ready to take on whatever role that the Cowboys want for him.
"I took a step forward with the production that I had," Harris said. "I'm just trying to build on that and continue that the next season and to camp. I'm a good return guy. I will do whatever I can to help the team out anyway that I can. I like returning, so hopefully they will keep me back there."
Last season we saw Harris takeover as the primary punt returner and he thrived in that role. He's not as dynamic as Dez Bryant, but he was more consistent and took less chances with the football. If he does lose that #3 job to Williams, he will still play an important role returning punts, but he is a promising wide receiver that should still see a lot of footballs thrown his way. Harris has a strong combination of good route running, speed and acceleration and strength. His ability to make guys miss and break tackles after he makes the catch make him a valuable player to have more involved in the offense this season.
It took a couple of years before Dez completely turned the lights on and became the force he is today. Last offseason, you could see that he was ready to take over and he elevated his game to another level. Every practice report that came out suggested #88 was the best player on the field.
Now Harris may not be the same type of player, but his progress and development is hard to ignore. Bryan Broaddus always brings a scout's view of things to the table, and he believes that Harris' progress could keep him ahead of Williams on the depth chart.
I honestly believe that Harris along with Bryant has made the biggest jump as a receiver in the terms of route running and catching the ball. We all have seen what he does infield with the ball in his hands on punt returns and the feel he has for reading blocks plus pound for pound he is the best blocking receiver they have on this squad. I do not see Harris’ height as a limitation to him because I feel like he turns that into a strength for him. Williams is a talented player but he really is going to have to fight to win that job.
Williams was by far my favorite draft pick this year, but Harris has more experience and is a more polished route runner right now. Both will contribute for the Cowboys, but as of right now Harris has to be in the lead. From a schematic standpoint, both will play important roles because each offers us a different skill set. Harris can be more of a slot receiver and work the underneath stuff, while Williams has the size and speed combo to work the outside receiver positions and stretch the field.
I can't remember the last time that the Cowboys had so many options at wide receiver. It's loaded with talent and towards the end of training camp the Cowboys will have some tough decisions to make. Regardless of who beats out who, there will be plenty of work for each player. Keep in mind Miles Austin has had trouble staying on the field, so there will plenty of snaps to go around.
Back in March, I dubbed Dwayne Harris as my breakout candidate on the offensive side of the football. Now Sports Illustrated writer Chris Burke has started a series listing players that interest him. Sure enough, our rising star is none other than Harris. It's becoming clear that a lot of folks around the league realize that the Cowboys may have found another gem from the 2011 NFL Draft.
That 2011 draft class is looking better and better, just saying......