While free agency officially begins in March, roster turnover isn't too far away. The Cowboys will indeed add and presumably release players, along with letting some go without a new contract.
However, the majority of the 2018 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they've been and where they're going.
Today, we'll continue the series with wide receiver Ryan Switzer.
Views of #10 Wide Receiver Ryan Switzer from the 2017-18 Regular Season.
What's Been Good:
Drafted in the fourth round to be a special teams ace and an offensive mismatch, Switzer offered some interesting glimpses of his ability during his rookie season. Primarily used as a return man, he put together a fairly solid resume. Among 20 punt returners with at least 25 attempts on the year, Switzer's average of 8.8 yards per return was ninth-best in the NFL. Among the 10 kick returners with 24 or more returns, his average of 25 yards per attempt was third-best in the league. It's a bit too soon to compare him to Devin Hester, but Switzer showed flashes of the ability that made him one of the top return men in recent college history, not to mention a fourth-round pick.
What's Been Bad:
As has been the case for what feels like forever, ball security was an occasional issue in the return game in 2017. Switzer famously fumbled a punt that helped turn the tide of the Oct. 1 loss to the Rams, as he muffed the catch inside the Dallas red zone that led to a Rams recovery. Los Angeles scored five plays later, cutting a 17-6 deficit to 17-13. Perhaps for that reason, the coaching staff didn't seem to trust Switzer as much as they might have wanted to. Switzer accounted for the vast majority of the Cowboys' punt returns, but Cole Beasley still saw spot duty at the position. Beasley fielded seven punts on the season – all of which came when the opponent was punting into the Dallas red zone.
However you might want to nitpick Switzer's performance, there's no denying that he started to feel a groove as the season went along. It was fun to watch him steadily build his confidence. In Week 10 against Atlanta, he had a 33-yard kick return that was one more block away from going the distance. The next week against Philadelphia, he opened the game with a 61-yard kick return, moving the ball all the way down to the Eagles' 37-yard line to start things off. It all culminated in the Week 13 game against Washington, when he fielded a punt at his own 17-yard line late in the second quarter. Switzer initially cut right, before planting and bursting forward through the middle of the kick team. After getting a handful of blocks, he shook off a tackle from Redskins punter Tress Way – and the rest was history, capped off by a somersault into the end one. The 83-yard touchdown return put the Cowboys up, 17-0, and essentially put the game out of reach.
Switzer has carved out a very clear role for himself, and it's a good bet he'll continue to handle the majority of the return duties in 2018. Having said that, there's so much more about Switzer's game that the Cowboys need to see. As active as he was on special teams, he only saw roughly 6 percent of the team's offensive snaps. He did get an extended look in Week 17 when Beasley was out sick, and he finished with four catches for 32 yards – but it's hard to take too much stock in that miserable outing in Philadelphia, after the team had already been eliminated from playoff contention. It'll be interesting to see how the Cowboys find opportunities for Switzer in 2018, given the personnel challenges involved. Putting Switzer on the field likely means taking Beasley or Jason Witten off of it, and those two have been mainstays in the Dallas offense for a long time. But with Beasley entering a contract year and Witten approaching the end of his career, it makes sense to see what you have in your youth. It will be fun to see if Switzer can find a role in the offense going forward.
- Count me as one of the media members that bought into the Ryan Switzer craze during the OTAs and mini camps.
- With Cole Beasley dealing with a sore hamstring and taking time to rest it.
- I was feeling good about the way that Switzer was practicing and it appeared that the coaches had a plan for how they wanted to use him.
- Not only was he doing similar things out the slot but he was also working on those package plays we saw from Lucky Whitehead.
- It was also where we first noticed that the coaches were interested in using him and Jourdan Lewis as the primary deep men in the return game.
- But all that promise came to a halt when Switzer injured his hamstring during practice while at training camp and he missed valuable time working on preparation for the season.
- Switzer was able to make it back but mainly just as a contributor on special teams.
- It was disappointing not to see him more involved with the offense because the play making ability is there.