We are often reminded that the NFL is a ‘what have you done for me lately league’ and what you did last year means little when you turn the page to a new year. In a lot of ways that’s a beautiful thing and that’s the way it should be. There should be no resting on your laurels, and the league is constantly churning talent and trying to find the next best thing.
The Dallas Cowboys are no different in that regard and we saw that ring true this offseason as they found themselves more involved and more aggressive than they’ve been in recent memory when it came to roster building. While this is a good thing and something that is generally applauded as we are often reminded that talent acquisition is a 24/7 business, sometimes fans and pundits around the team can find themselves tossing aside the good you have, for the hope of something better.
This is where some have it wrong when it comes to KaVontae Turpin. The moment Deuce Vaughn, and his great story, was drafted, Turpin became an afterthought in some people’s eyes. Vaughn is the new shiny toy added to the backfield with all this untapped potential, and some are ready to let him take over a role that we saw Turpin thrive at a Pro Bowl level. The goal for Vaughn in this scenario is to basically duplicate what we already saw Turpin do in his own rookie year already, and instead of understanding what we just saw from Turpin last year, it almost feels like an expectation more than the outlier that it was.
Cowboys rookie WR KaVontae Turpin nearly became the first NFL player to return a punt for a touchdown in 2022. He just missed Sunday vs. Lions on a 52-yarder. LB Luke Gifford: "Turp is always a spark." pic.twitter.com/7U55y1Odn2— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 24, 2022
Let’s not forget that Turpin played in over 30 football games for two different professional organizations in one calendar year last year. If Turpin showed signs of fatigue and decline, it would certainly be understandable. This is something that was always going to be a real possibility as the season went on and everyone involved understood the uniqueness of the situation. No human on earth is intended to play two full football seasons back-to-back with no break, but that’s just what Turpin did, and was able to do so at an exceptional level for most of the year.
With the USFL in his rear view, it’s entirely conceivable that we have yet to truly scratch the surface of what KaVontae Turpin can be for the Dallas Cowboys. Turpin was able to use the offseason to gain fresh legs and use a real, structured offseason in an NFL program to his advantage. Couple that with the opportunity allotted to him to integrate into the offense more consistently this year with jobs open on the wide receiving corps, one could say the chance for Turpin to be impactful has never been bigger.
KaVontae Turpin has looked good in his work at receiver. The Cowboys expect him to have a role in the offense as well as on special teams.— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) June 7, 2023
They want to get the playmaker the ball https://t.co/GApqgMqqCc
Now this is not a ‘this or that’ situation between Deuce Vaughn and KaVontae Turpin. The excitement for Vaughn is justified. They both can be valuable; in the NFL you can never have enough fast playmakers on your roster. Having the both of them is going unlock head coach Mike McCarthy’s playbook in a multitude of ways that we have not been accustomed to seeing from a Cowboys team in quite some time.
Where the brakes need to be pumped a bit is in the narrative that Deuce Vaughn can just be expected to step in and do what Turpin did last year. It’s possible, but it should not just be expected. Turpin was far from perfect and he would be the first to tell you so, but the playmaking ability was proven and we know what we have seen at the NFL level from him already. The expectations for a 5’4”, sixth-round pick should not be a Pro Bowl level impact player out the gate. It’s not realistic and we should hope he grasps the playbook and secures a job first. The same was true for Turpin until he produced with his chances.
This is not to say Vaughn isn’t capable, but the point remains that we know what Turpin has done and what we have right now is just hope for Vaughn. There is an entire training camp and three preseason games to sort out the division of labor, and every chance is going to be closely monitored as it should be, and while both can have a role and succeed, do not sleep on KaVontae Turpin in 2023 because we might miss out on his best.