When talking of football, people rarely talk about special teams. The offensive and defensive side of the ball gets much more attention. However, special teams are a valuable part of a game. Special teams are the “hidden yards” of the game. If a team drives 50 yards down the field for a touchdown, the offense usually gets credit. If you ask how they got to the 50 yard mark in the first place though, the answer is probably special teams. I don’t think many people noticed, but the Cowboys’ special team was very strong this year. This was Rich Bisaccia’s first year as the special teams coordinator for the Cowboys and he did a tremendous job.
There are four aspects to special teams. There is kicking, punting, return coverage, and returns. Rich Bisaccia did a great job this year with what he had. By examining these four aspects, you’ll realize how well the Cowboys’ special teams were this year.
Let’s start off with kicking. Dan Bailey had a good year as usual. He made 28 out of 30 field goals and made every single extra point in 2013. We all know Bailey is a good field goal kicker, so it is no surprise that he did well again this year. The fact that Bailey did not regress shows that Bisaccia is not a terrible coach. Now if we look at kickoffs, we’ll begin to see that Bisaccia is beginning to make improvements to Dan Bailey. Bailey has always been decent at kickoffs, but this year he managed to increase the number of touchbacks he had. In 2013, Bailey had 52 touchbacks, which nearly doubles his career total. 55.9% of his kicks went for touchbacks, which is 20% higher than the previous year. For his first time in his career, he had more touchbacks than returns allowed. Bailey’s kickoff ability has improved greatly this year and is one of many things that Bisaccia improved on special teams.
Punting was one of the weaker parts of special teams for the Cowboys. Ever since Matt McBriar left Dallas, Chris Jones has been handling the punting duties. Jones is nothing special, but Bisaccia managed to make him play at an acceptable level. Jones was not a weakness to the Cowboys as he managed to get 30 punts inside the 20 and have an average of 45.0 yards. Jones is nothing special, but Bisaccia managed to make the most from him.
The return game was great this year. This is mainly because of the development of special teams ace, Dwayne Harris. Harris was our primary returner for both punt and kick returns. This is the first time in his career where he was relied on for both return duties. This move paid off, as Harris was effective as a return specialist. Harris was 6th in the NFL for yards per punt returns and 2nd in the NFL for yards per kick returns. The return game was great and was one reason for an effective scoring offense in 2013.
Finally, let’s take a look at punt and kick coverage. We looked at Dan Bailey earlier, and noticed his increased amount of touchbacks. If a team can’t return a kick, then the coverage unit did its job. When opposing teams did return a kick, they would only average 20.8 yards. This would be tied for 5th in the NFL. His punt coverage was not as impressive, as Chris Jones was 21st in the league in net average. However, the Cowboys did not allow a single return touchdown this year. This unit managed to find success in containing opposing returners.
Rich Bisaccia made quite an impact in his first year as a special teams coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. There won’t be much credit given to him, but he definitely deserves it. When you don’t hear much about special teams, then you’re probably doing something right. With Bisaccia, he is definitely bringing the Cowboys in the right direction.