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Determining who should serve as the primary return man for the Cowboys in 2021

Special teams matter, but should the Cowboys risk important weapons on them?

Dallas Cowboys v Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In looking at the prospects for the 2021 Dallas Cowboys many have noted that things will need to improve on the defensive side of the ball. The expectation for this coming season is that the offense will take care of itself for the Cowboys, and with an improved defense, the overall package should shine a little bit more brightly and in the winner’s circle more often than not. As important as these things are there is of course a third element to professional football - special teams.

On the latest episode of the NFC East Mixtape, myself and Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Lee Gowton assessed the special teams landscape throughout the division. The Cowboys have arguably the best special teams coordinator in the NFC East, all of our thoughts and prayers are with John Fassel after the passing of his father Jim this week, so it is fair to place a high level of expectation on them. Make sure to subscribe to the Blogging The Boys podcast feed on Apple devices right here or on Spotify right here to listen to all of our episodes, we have a new one every day throughout the week.

One of the things that BLG and I discussed was who the best returner in the division is. There is a strong argument for a certain Cowboy which means the duties should belong to him in 2021.

Who should serve as the primary return man for the Cowboys in 2021?

At times throughout 2020 the Cowboys trotted CeeDee Lamb out to return punts, and while that was fun to watch, it is unlikely to continue with his role on the offense continually growing. Lamb did technically return a kickoff for a touchdown last season although it was an onside attempt from the San Francisco 49ers, so not exactly normal circumstances.

Speaking in an overall sense there is really only one logical choice to return kickoffs for the Dallas Cowboys - Tony Pollard.

Pollard should also see an offensive role that is larger than last season which will be great to see as well, but he is a dangerous player with the ball in his hands and the Cowboys have to find as many opportunities as they can to try and make that happen.

Now to be clear, the path to becoming prominent in the return game has been a rough one for Pollard. At times early on last season he looked like an utter disaster in this phase of the game, thankfully John Fassel and Co. were able to get things all squared away.

In totality, the 2020 season was a solid one for Pollard in the return game as he ranked highly among his contemporaries in various return categories:

  • Kick return yards......................... 4th with 766
  • Kick and punt return yards.......... 5th with 766
  • Long kick return.......................... 10th with 67
  • Yards per kickoff return............... 7th with 23.9

The Cowboys saw a massive turnaround in the special teams department in 2020 versus 2019 so more growth this season wouldn’t be surprising. Tony Pollard elevating his return game would go a long way in that capacity, but is there someone else who we think would serve the team better in this role?

Other candidates on the current roster to return kicks are likely limited to the likes of Jourdan Lewis and perhaps Kelvin Joseph, Cedrick Wilson also figures into that mix. Joseph should have a prominent role on defense if things progress the way that we want them to, and while the other options are existent neither Lewis nor Wilson seemingly have the speed that someone like Pollard could offer.

This time of year and the coming months are when questions like this will be sorted out, but it is hard to envision an answer that isn’t along these lines. All of that being said, who do you think should serve as the primary return man for the Cowboys in 2021?