Why is there is so much need for someone on the roster that only plays a handful of snaps a game? It has always messed with me in more ways than one that someone like a punter has so much to do with the outcome of a game. Obviously it’s not as direct of an impact as say a wide receiver or a quarterback. There’s no way a punter will ever be valued higher than someone like Tony Romo or Dez Bryant. It’s just never going to happen.
That being said, the punter plays an important role in how the team overall plays. A punter can change the momentum of a game in fail swoop… or kick. A punt that pins an opponent deep in their own territory is valuable to both the offense and defense. If the defense can get a quick three-and-out, the offense has a shorter field and a better chance of getting points on the board. These are all simple things that any football fan knows.
Since I’ve now given you some context, I want to continue and explain why the Dallas Cowboys, in particular, need to have a stud punter this season.
A lot of the moves this offseason have been focused on solidifying the secondary and in turn increasing the pass rush. Last season’s secondary was a disgrace, that’s nothing new to anyone at this point. I like most of the moves Dallas made in free agency and the draft to help out the back end of the defense, but I don’t think they are just going to jump in and gel immediately. I honestly don’t think the secondary, and the defense as a whole, will be as dominant as most people think right out of the gate. I don’t imagine they will be working well as a unit until week six or so. So until then, they are going to need all the help they can get. That’s going to include getting favorable field position, and then giving the offense their own favorable field position by slowing down opposing offenses and forcing them to punt the ball away.
Of course the coverage unit is always something to take into account when you talk about things like this. You can have the best punter in the world, but if he doesn’t kick it out of bounds, you have to have guys that can get downfield and make the tackle. With that being said,I’m not too concerned about the punt coverage unit. They were decent last year, but the weak link last year, and may be this year as well, is the punter.
Mat McBriar has been reliably good for the Cowboys since 2004. He has been to pro bowls and has as strong a leg as any punter in the league when healthy. So when I heard that he was recovering well from surgery to repair nerve damage he suffered last season I got excited. I still remember when McBriar punted the ball 75 yards in 2006 against the Houston Texans. If he can get back to a somewhat similar playing level, and the Cowboys can get him back, then the offense and defense will be better off this season.
Now obviously a lot has to happen between now and then. McBriar needs to be healthy enough to be signed to the roster, and then he needs to beat out the younger Chris Jones who currently holds the starting position and is far from impressive in my eyes. If he can do all this then I believe the first half of the season in particular will go a lot smoother than I think it would otherwise.