By Shawn Lealos
Dwayne Harris came into the 2013 Dallas Cowboys NFL season looking to win the third wide receiver job. He didn’t quite make it and rookie Terrance Williams took over the role. Williams even started when Miles Austin went out with an injury. That is alright, because Harris is still one of the MVPs of the season for the Cowboys. He just had to do it on special teams.
Harris already won an NFL Special Teams Player of the Week honor this season before the Washington Redskins game.
That came back in September when he won the award after the Cowboys Week 1 win over the New York Giants. Harris recorded two tackles on punt returns and another on a kick return. He also knocked the ball out of Jayron Hosley’s hands on punt coverage that led to a Dallas recovery on the Giants 16-yard-line. He won the award thanks to his special teams defense, while also returning two punts for 19 yards.
In the Redskins game, it was the other side of special teams that made Harris shine. He returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown and then returned a kickoff 90 yards to set up a Cowboys touchdown. He also had a key punt return tackle in the fourth quarter. It earned him the Cowboys MVP award for the win and he deserves his second Special Teams Player of the Week honor, given out every Wednesday.
On the season, Harris has six receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown. That can’t be what he expected when he came in fighting for that third receiver role. On the season, Harris has eight punt returns for 189 yards and a touchdown, and nine kick returns for 312 yards. That can’t be what anyone expected from the quick receiver in 2013.
Right now, there is not a better special teams player in the NFL than Dwayne Harris.
He leads the NFL in kickoff return yardage with 34.7 yards a return, the best for anyone with enough returns to qualify. Ever since Roger Goodell pushed the kickoff up to prevent returns, that is a huge accomplishment. He also leads the NFL in punt return yards with 23.6 yards per return. Plus, as he showed in Week 1, he is a perfect gunner and someone who will be there to bring down any returner for the other team.
For long time Dallas Cowboys fans, he is Bill Bates mixed with Deion Sanders – the best of both worlds.
Special teams are often overlooked in the NFL as a true game changer. However, without that fumble he caused in Week 1, the Giants might have played harder when things got tough. If not for the punt return touchdown and kick return to the 10-yard-line, Dallas might have only had a one-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Redskins.
No one knows if those games would have been different without Dwayne Harris on special teams. Luckily, Dallas Cowboys fans will never have to worry about that question.
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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.