Dez Bryant likely to return more punts

November, 30, 2011
11/30/11
1:08
PM ET
The Dallas Cowboys made a couple of roster moves Wednesday, releasing wide receiver Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and adding fullback Shawn Chapas from the practice squad. They don't seem like major moves on the surface, but they have implications further up the roster, as I will attempt to explain.

The main impetus for this would seem to be the continued absence from the lineup of fullback Tony Fiammetta, who had been such a big part of the resurgence of the running game and the success of rookie running back DeMarco Murray but has been unable to play or practice for the past few weeks due to illness. The Cowboys do not seem to have any idea when or if they'll get Fiammetta back, so they need Chapas to come up from the practice squad and do some blocking.

They also seem to be getting ready for the return of wide receiver Miles Austin from his second hamstring injury of the year. And with the emergence of Laurent Robinson at wide receiver, they could be overloaded at that position. For that reason, all indications are that the Cowboys would reduce the role of wide receiver Dez Bryant in the passing game and use him to return punts -- a job Owusu-Ansah was doing but at which Bryant is a much greater threat. The Cowboys have been hesitant to use Bryant as a return man due to concerns about his health. But if he doesn't have to play as many snaps on offense as he has been playing, they can reduce his injury risk that way.

Bryant had a big 20-yard punt return to get the Cowboys' game-winning drive started against the Dolphins on Thanksgiving, and he's clearly the team's best option on punts.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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