It was just a couple months ago that the Dallas Cowboys special teams unit was one of the biggest concerns going into the new season. Their sloppy play in the preseason were the things head coaches’ nightmares are made of. And a lot of that negative attention was focused on new special teams coach Rich Bisaccia. But since the start of the regular season, Dallas special teams’ group have actually been the team’s unsung heroes.
In January of this year, Bisaccia replaced long-time special teams coach Joe DeCamillis. By doing so, he rejoined former colleagues Monte Kiffin and Rob Marinelli on the Cowboys new coaching staff. All three men had been coaches for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their Super Bowl run in 2002. Many fans seemed excited by the addition of Bisaccia as Dallas’ special teams play had seemingly stalled under DeCamillis.
Unfortunately, it initially appeared as if Dallas’ special teams had gotten worse. The unit struggled in the preseason as their coverage team was allowing too many big plays and not making any themselves. Fumbled returns, a muff punt and a blocked field goal spelled-out what a future disaster this unit could possibly become in the regular season.
But veteran special-teamer and safety Danny McCray reassured Cowboys fans via the Dallas Morning News that everything was going to be fine as they were simply experiencing some growing pains:
“You’ve got to remember that just like the offense and the defense, we are learning a new scheme, also. We are playing things a little different. I think that’s what the preseason games are for. For us to figure those things out and it’s good that those things happen in the preseason rather than Week One.”
In order to further fix the problems, Dallas also made some innocuous additions right after finalizing their final 53-man roster. They added special teams ace Edgar Jones from the Kansas City Chiefs via a trade. Then they signed linebacker Kyle Bosworth from the New York Giants, the day after he was released. Both players instantly improved our special teams play, as it was their specialty on other teams.
This “special” unit has also been bolstered by the play of newcomers like rookie linebacker DeVonte Holloman and safety Jeff Heath. Last week, Dallas also activated linebacker Cameron Lawrence off the practice squad for the first time. The rookie out of Mississippi State made an immediate impact on special teams as his key block freed wideout Dwayne Harris for a 90 yard kick-return against Washington on Sunday. Harris finished the day with 222 total return yards and a touchdown off a punt return.
Throughout the regular season so far, we’ve heard little about the play of the special teams…and that’s actually a good thing! They’ve simply been doing their jobs, not allowing the big play and giving Dallas’ offense good field position. But on Sunday, they went above and beyond. You could even say their play was…”special”.