ONE TWO PUNCH: Dallas Cowboys make changes in return game

Dallas Cowboys RB Felix Jones will be the kick returner in 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

OXNARD, Calif. — Dez Bryant will be the Cowboys punt returner in 2012.

The Cowboys were leery of using the wide receiver in that spot last year, choosing to limit his work in part for fear of injury, but they have had a philosophical change of heart in 2012.

And it’s not just Bryant who will be involved in the return game. Jones said Felix Jones will be the team’s kick returner.

“We think that’s really going to do wonders for our kicking game,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “We’re going to let them work on it from the get go. Obviously, we didn’t do it with Felix last year because he was the starting running back and we didn’t do it with Dez. This year, we think it’ll make a big difference. Both guys were top guys come out of college. By letting them work on it every day, Joe (DeCamillis) thinks it’ll make a big difference.”

Bryant had punt returns for touchdowns of 62 and 93 yards as a rookie and averaged 14.3 yards in 15 returns. Last season, he suffered a bruised quadriceps in the season opener and was limited as a returner for the rest of the year.

Jones has averaged 24.5 yards per kick return in his first three seasons. He had a 98-yard touchdown as a rookie.

“We were wanting to try some of the young guys last year,” Stephen Jones said. “I think Dez doing punt returns, we’ve done it with Deion (Sanders). We think that’s a safer deal. And then with Felix obviously going to No. 2 running back, then I think him get some chances to make some plays as well.”

The Cowboys averaged just 7.1 yards per punt return and 23.3 yards per kick return in 2012, which has kept the offense from being in the best field position situations.

“The big thing is Joe thinks practicing it every day, getting Dez and Felix used to the blocking schemes, working on it every day, they’ll be better,” Stephen Jones said.

Courtesy: Todd Archer | ESPN Dallas

RELATED: Dallas Cowboys doing right thing in return game

Yes, I would agree that having two of the best, most dynamic and most dangerous athletes on your team returning your kicks can make a big difference. Frankly, I never saw what was the holdup with Bryant as punt returner. He’s big enough and young enough to handle the extra work. And if fear of injury was really going to govern your decisions, you’d never let any of these guys on the field to begin with. Bryant can be a difference-maker in the punt return game, and the way Jones operates in space with the ball in his hands leads one to believe he could do the same as a kick returner. Given the Cowboys’ depth issues at key positions on offense and defense, finding and keeping a specialist just for return duties wouldn’t make a lot of sense. These moves do.

Courtesy: Dan Graziano | ESPN

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