Dwayne Harris' rookie season probably didn't go according to plan for the Cowboys or himself.
Harris, a sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft, was actually cut from the team before coming back during his rookie season. For the fans, that just raised more concerns about Jerry Jones' sketchy draft history, but for Harris, getting cut had to make himself question his abilities.
Heading into this 2012 season, Harris was going to be competing for playing time among a crowded group of receivers. At best, the predictions were that he'd grab one of the receiver spots while possibly securing the punt and kick return duties. Harris actually enjoyed a productive preseason and the second-year pro was entrenched in the receiver mix and ultimately made the roster.
While the initial part of 2012 brought similar results to his rookie campaign, things took a sudden turn for the better after one single punt return against the Philadelphia Eagles in a very meaningful road game.
After the Cowboys tied the score at 17-17 on a Dez Bryant touchdown reception, Harris' punt return for a touchdown after a defensive stand changed the game for good.
Thirteen minutes and 35 seconds into the fourth quarter, Harris took a punt up the left sideline 78-yards for what would turn out to be the pivotal turning point in the game as the Cowboys rode that momentum to victory. For Harris, that single play symbolized his breakthrough moment of this season, his career and he is now parlaying that into being a target in the Cowboys' offense.
He caught a 16-yard touchdown pass against the New Orleans Saints while the Cowboys were in the midst of a fierce comeback and he had several key receptions during scoring drives and a big punt return against the Steelers the previous week.
It appears that one of Harris' strengths in the offense is that he's able to make plays in space by utilizing the bubble screen and he plays the game hard.
But Harris' flag has been planted on this organization.
Harris has become a major force as a punt returner since he assumed the role from Dez Bryant and is currently averaging 14.5 yards in that department. In addition to the big return against Philadelphia, he's also had big returns against Cleveland and Atlanta.
It's a nice sign on development front to see how Harris has grown as a player.
The Cowboys need more of that.
He's starting to show enough flashes in the offense in addition to his kick return prowess, that will ultimately make the receiving corps more competitive while keeping the pressure on a player like Miles Austin to keep delivering.
In the era of the current salary-cap landscape, having a developing playmaker that is economically accommodating could turn into a huge asset.
Harris has the potential to become a major asset to the Cowboys when it looked like the initial prognosis was that Kevin Ogletree appeared to have a grip on that title. But things change over the course of a football season, and for Harris, the change has been dramatic since being drafted by the Cowboys.
For a player who was drafted, cut, signed to the practice squad and didn't contribute much, it's refreshing to see how perseverance can pay off. Harris' future role with the Cowboys remains to be seen, but judging from his recent contributions, that future is becoming more cemented. He's shown a knack for having good hands, he runs crisp routes, he fights for yards and maintains good balance while locating the ball.
Those are the attributes of a quality receiver in the making and it will be important to monitor Harris' development.
For now, the Cowboys will need Harris to continue to step up and continue to turn heads.
The playoffs are depending on it.