After one preseason game, it looked like sixth-round rookie Dwayne Harris might push for playing time as the Cowboys' third receiver. Going on two months later now, he's doing well just to be on the field as much as he is.
Even with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant battling injuries, Harris is still buried on the depth chart behind Kevin Ogletree and Jesse Holley. After the five-catch, 127-yard, two touchdown performance in the exhibition opener, he has registered only one catch for 11 yards, at Miami in the preseason finale.
Since the regular season began he's been limited to special teams mostly. However, it doesn't seem to be a case where the Cowboys are down on Harris. Instead, he's going through the natural progression, as Jason Garrett caled it, for rookie receivers.
"He's still learning, like a lot of our guys are," Garrett said. "Oftentimes with young receivers you have to make a decision about whether or not you want to leave them at one spot, or let them play multiple spots. He's in the process of trying to understand more than one spot to give us some personnel flexibility there, and with the injuries you have to be able to do those kinds of things.
"What you want to do right from the outset is have them play multiple spots, but we have to understand that a lot of these guys didn't have an offseason, so you have to kind of ease them into understanding what the offense is ... the last thing you want to do is give a guy too much, and he's not able to handle any of it and you don't see what kind of player he is."
For now, Harris appears to have at least one important role all to his own. When Dez Bryant was injured on the first punt return of the season, those duties shifted to Harris, who has displayed the ability to make at least the first guy miss, a crucial skill for returners. Following the release of Bryan McCann this week, there's a good chance he picks up the kickoff return duties as well.
Harris opened the overtime period against San Francisco with a nice return to bail out the Cowboys offense. 49ers punter Andy Lee booted a 58-yard kick that Harris smartly fielded at the 11 and returned to the 22. A play later, Tony Romo hit Holley for a big play down the field and the game was won.
"I thought it was a good return, a positive play for us," Garrett said. "He went north and south, and that's a good thing. He's pretty confident, reliable catching the football back there. That's line one when you're a punt returner. I think he's done some good things, making some positive plays. He did it in the preseason and he did it the other day in the game."