CeeDee Lamb is the Dallas Cowboys No. 1 wide receiver. That title was set in stone after the team traded Amari Cooper this offseason. Being the top dog also means the team needs to prioritize his health a bit more and relieve him of his punt return responsibilities. And since the team’s punt returner, Cedrick Wilson Jr., has left the scene, the Cowboys suddenly find themselves without a punt returner.
That was until the team signed USFL MVP KaVontae Turpin.
A 5’9”, 158-pound speedster, Turpin led the New Jersey Generals to a league-best 9-1 record before being sent to the playoff semifinals. Turpin led the USFL with 540 receiving yards on a total of 316 receiving yards. Four of his catches went for touchdowns. His value extended beyond just being a wide receiver, as Turpin also scored a touchdown on a punt return as well as a kickoff return.
Turpin is a very skilled comeback man. He has nifty feet that give him the suddenness to change direction on a whim. He has great vision on the pitch, and when he finds a crease, he has that extra gear to get past his potential tacklers. Turpin is an electric player and now he’s trying to get things done with the Cowboys.
The team signed Turpin to a three-year contract at a very low price, but he is just one of many guys trying to earn a place on the team. The receiving squad has many young players trying to fill the voids left by deceased players, Turpin being one of them. While he’s super quick and the reigning USFL receiving yard leader has great appeal, it will be his returning ability that stands the best chance of cracking his ticket to the roster. And right now, he’s the guy Turpin was handling all the punt returns in Thursday’s practice. Jalen Tolbert is a guy we could see handling return duties this year, but even putting him in jeopardy might not be ideal at the moment given he should have a bigger role with Michael Gallup missing the first part of the season.
With limited competition around him in camp, Turpin is well positioned to make the team. And it doesn’t hurt that he himself has a very good side so far. He hasn’t been with the team very long, but he’s already showing the skills that made him so impressive at the USFL. He blows through team’s fastest starting cornerhe does rear shoulder hooksand he puts his remarkable deviousness exposed in kick return drills. His the footwork in the exercises is very impressive so far. Everything he has shown in practice so far validates the player he is, who is a dynamic playmaker once he has the ball in his hands.
Turpin didn’t come out of nowhere. Similar to the acquisition of Bryan Anger a year ago, special teams coach John Fassel had been watching him for some time.
Cowboys ST coordinator John Fassel on WR/returner KaVontae Turpin: “He’s been on my radar since 2018.” He watched each of his college returns to TCU. Not concerned with the lack of size at his listed 158 pounds.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 3, 2022
Fassel is already praising the team’s new weapon, saying he’s very happy to have Turpin in the team and that he has huge aspirations for him.
Every year around this time we get excited about a new wide receiver, and this year is no different. Players like TJ Vasher and Dennis Houston flash moments in camp where we think they’ll make a legitimate push for a spot on the roster. While anything is possible, a receiver who can contribute on special teams will be one step ahead of others. Turpin has all the right things going for it. He’s the team’s main returner at the moment and that’s not expected to change. They find ways to involve him with short passing through the middle, so it’s pretty clear they have a plan for him.
It might be wise to hit the brakes with some of these other guys, but with Turpin, it’s almost a sure bet that he’ll find his place on this Cowboys football team. And considering that 10 days ago none of us even thought about this guy, that says a lot about what he’s done to make such an impression in such a short time. Speed is an amazing thing, and this guy has it.