OXNARD, Calif. – There are plenty of question marks on both offense and defense. But special teams has its share of uncertainties, too.
Cowboys VP Stephen Jones tried to answer some of those Sunday following a lengthy opening press conference to kick off California training camp in Oxnard, Calif.
According to Jones, the Cowboys' director of player personnel, the club will use Dez Bryant to be the primary punt returner, while Felix Jones is expected to start out on kickoffs.
Over the last few years, the Cowboys typically don't use starters or even key offensive players in the return game. Other teams around the league such as New England with Wes Welker or Philadelphia and DeSean Jackson will turn their starting receivers loose in the return game. But the Cowboys have been more reluctant.
Apparently, the way of thinking has changed.
"We think that's really going to do wonders for our kicking game," 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."
The Cowboys haven't had a kickoff return for a touchdown since Felix Jones went 98 yards against the Eagles in 2008, his rookie season. In fact, the second-longest return in that span was also turned in by Jones, who went 69 yards against Arizona last year when the Cowboys decided to use Jones returning kicks once again.
As for Bryant, who had two dynamic returns for scores as a rookie in 2010, he owns a 10.5 yard average on 30 career returns. Last year, he averaged just 6.7 yards with a long of only 20 yards, which followed up a 14.3 yard average 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 will continue to work other players into the mix for depth purposes. Players such as Lance Dunbar, Cole Beasley and even Morris Claiborne will get some looks in the preseason. Second-year receiver Dwayne Harris will also get plenty of chances and could end up as the backup at both kickoff and punt returns.