CeeDee Lamb is the Dallas Cowboys' no. 1 wide receiver. This title was cemented in stone after the team traded away Amari Cooper this offseason. Being the top dog also means the team must prioritize his health a little more and relieve him of his punt return responsibilities. And considering the team’s backup punt returner, Cedrick Wilson Jr., has vacated the premises, suddenly the Cowboys find themselves without a punt returner.
That was until the team signed the USFL MVP KaVontae Turpin.
A 5’9”, 158-pound speedster, Turpin led the New Jersey Generals to a league-best 9-1 record before being bounced in the semifinals of the playoffs. Turpin led the USFL with 540 receiving yards thanks to tallying 316 yards after the catch. Four of his catches went for touchdowns. His value extended past just being a pass catcher as Turpin also scored a touchdown on a punt return as well as a kickoff return.
Turpin is a very skilled return man. He has nifty feet that provide him the suddenness to change direction on a whim. He possesses excellent field vision, and when he finds a crease he has that extra gear to blow past his would-be tacklers. Turpin is an electric player and now he’s trying to keep a good thing going with the Cowboys.
The team signed Turpin to a very low-cost three-year deal, but he’s just one guy of many trying to earn a spot on the team. The receiving group has a lot of young players trying to fill voids left by departed players with Turpin being one of them. While being super fast as well as the USFL’s reigning receiving yards leader has nice appeal, it will be his return ability that has the best chance to punch his ticket onto the roster. And right now, he’s the guy as Turpin was handling all the punt returns in Thursday’s practice. Jalen Tolbert is a guy who we could see handle return duties this year, but even putting him at risk might not be ideal right now considering he’s expected to have a bigger role with Michael Gallup missing the first part of the season.
With limited competition surrounding him in camp, Turpin’s in a good spot to make the team. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s having himself a very good camp so far. He hasn’t been with the team very long, but he’s already flashing the skills that made him so impressive in the USFL. He’s blowing by the team’s fastest starting corner, he’s making back shoulder catches, and he’s putting his remarkable shiftiness on display in punt return drills. His footwork in drills is very impressive so far. Everything he’s demonstrating in practice so far is validating the player he is, which is a dynamic playmaker once he gets the ball in his hands.
Turpin didn’t just show up out of nowhere. Similar to the Bryan Anger acquisition a year ago, special teams coach John Fassel has had his eye on him for a while.
Cowboys ST coordinator John Fassel on WR/returner KaVontae Turpin: “He’s been on my radar since 2018.” Watched every one of his college returns at TCU. Not concerned by lack of size at his listed 158 pounds.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 3, 2022
Fassel is already praising the team’s new weapon saying that he is very excited to have Turpin on the team and that he has huge aspirations for him.
Every year at this time we get excited about some new wide receiver, and this year is no different. Players like T.J. Vasher and Dennis Houston flash moments in camp to where we think they’ll make a legitimate push for a roster spot. While anything is possible, a receiver who can contribute in special teams is going to have a leg up on the others. Turpin has all the right things working in his favor. He’s the team’s main returner at the moment and that is not likely to change. They are finding ways to get him involved with short passes over the middle, so it’s pretty clear they have a plan for him.
It may be wise to tap the brakes with some of these other guys, but with Turpin, it’s almost a sure bet that he finds his way onto this Cowboys football team. And considering 10 days ago, none of us was even thinking about this guy, it says a lot about what he’s done to make such a strong impression in such a short time. Speed is an amazing thing, and this guy’s got it.