While the Cowboys released receiver/return specialist Akwasi Owusu-Ansah to make room for a fullback, it also means the club needs to find a new punt returner. Actually, he's not exactly new but it does appear the Cowboys are ready to put Dez Bryant back on punt returns once again.
That decision might have been made late in the fourth quarter of last Thursday's Thanksgiving win, when the Cowboys rushed out Bryant instead of Owusu-Ansah to field the last punt by Miami. Bryant, still buckling his chin strap with the ball in midair, weaved his way through defenders for a 20-yard gain to put the Cowboys in position for a late drive and game-winning field goal.
Getting the ball in Bryant's hands has been an occasional challenge for the Cowboys, especially with Miles Austin's latest hamstring injury. Opposing defenses have given more attention to Bryant, forcing Laurent Robinson to beat them. And he's done that, catching seven touchdowns in the last five games.
While Bryant's touches have been limited, he's still managed to come up with crucial plays that have led to victories. Bryant caught a big third-down catch in overtime that led to a game-winning field goal over the Redskins two weeks ago, and also caught a 26-yard catch and drew a face mask penalty that gave Bailey a chance to win the game back in Week Three.
And of course, his punt return opened the door for a drive against Miami.
While Bryant is clearly the most electrifying of the punt-return options, proving that last year when he returned two for touchdowns, he's also shown the ability to get injured while returning kicks. Last year in Indianapolis, Bryant's season was cut short on a kickoff return when he broke his leg against the Colts.
In the season opener this year against the Jets, Bryant suffered a deep thigh bruise that plagued him for the first month of the season. That injury occurred while returning a punt in the first half. Bryant wasn't fully 100 percent until after the bye week in mid-October.
But now, the Cowboys really are out of options other than Bryant. Kevin Ogletree has just two returns in his career and Terence Newman has done it in the past, but he's been injury-prone at times and has just two punt returns since 2007.
Bryant is the best option. And now he seems to be the only option as well.