Special teams count. The preseason counts. The dress rehearsal is important. All of these are true.
The Dallas Cowboys lost quite handily to the Arizona Cardinals in their dress rehearsal, but it was a contest that they knowingly played without guys like Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin.
Absences by such key figures may help us rationalize what the game means in its total context, but they don’t necessarily excuse everyone else who had to play in it. The preseason may feel like a bore but the reality is that it’s still where roster spots are earned.
Sunday night was a big one for a lot of Cowboys, and one in particular was wide receiver Lance Lenoir. Unfortunately for Lenoir he muffed the first two punts of the evening (to be fair Byron Jones ran into him on the first one), the second of which resulted in a Cardinals touchdown.
Lance Lenoir on the two muffed punts: I think it was just a tough game for everybody in general. Yeah, I made some mistakes back there. ...just going back to the basics. Without bad there would be no good.— Kate Hairopoulos (@khairopoulos) August 27, 2018
I’m not going to lie to you. That was ugly, indefensible really. You can talk yourself into pardoning him a bit on the first one because of Byron, but there is no defending what Lance Lenoir did on his second muffed punt. It was flat out terrible.
Special teams are very important, especially for end-of-the-roster-type players. If you are on the bubble and want to make the team you need to play well on special teams. Many players get their start on special teams because their roster spot has to be justified.
That being said... who legitimately expects Lance to return punts if he does make the team? I’ve championed his cause before (plenty BTBers agreed) and I’m here to do it again in the face of adversity, two special teams plays (as big as they were) shouldn’t be his undoing.
Lenoir has a history of struggling with punt returns dating back to last preseason and it helped cost his 2017 roster spot then; however, if you remove these two muffs from Lance’s 2018 resumé you’ll have yourself a wide receiver who many believe deserves to make the team. All of that is still true, as are the two punts that he muffed on Sunday night.
Certainly some careful evaluation still needs to be done, but that should include the body of work that Lenoir has put together up until this point. 99% of who he’s been so far is a player most want on the team, I’m simply petitioning not to let the 1% feel so loud because it’s so recent.