Dallas Cowboys: This veteran will be more important than ever in 2015


The Dallas Cowboys are fortunate to have a number of players that can be considered as one of the best players in the league at their position. Wide Receiver Dez Bryant, center Travis Frederick, guard Zack Martin and left tackle Tyron Smith all belong in any discussion about the top players at their respective position.

However, another veteran on the team, one who is often taken for granted must also be discussed as one of the best at his position. Place kicker Dan Bailey is not only one of the most accurate kickers in the league but his statistics place him on lists of all-time great kickers, and this year Bailey will be more important than ever to the Dallas Cowboys.

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This season, the NFL has lengthened extra point attempts from 22 yards to 33 yards. The aim of the new rule is to add more interest and drama to the extra point tries, which were converted 99% of the time in the NFL last season.

For example, Dan Bailey has not missed an extra point in 179 attempts in his four years in the NFL. As for his stats from the new extra point distance, Bailey is 38 of 40 (95%) in his career.

In the past 15 seasons, NFL kickers have converted 98% of extra point attempts. And while the success rate for kicks from 33 yards has also been high (92.8% since 2000), the mental aspect of this rule change might impact the way some NFL coaches approach the game.

It will be interesting to see if there is an increase in the number of two-point-conversion attempts this season due to coaches that do not trust their place kicker.   But we do know how Cowboys’ head coach Jason Garrett will handle the new rule.

"“Dan is a great kicker and that whole operation has been really good for us,” Garrett told the team’s official site last week. “We have a tremendous amount of confidence in him…I think for the most part we’ll probably just kick most of our [extra point tries]. But again, you have to be ready for those circumstances on both sides of the ball.”"

Since its inclusion in the NFL game, the two-point-conversion has been successful about 50% of the time which is much less than the 90% + success rate on 33 yard field goals. However, many coaches are considering a change in how they will proceed following touchdowns.

"Detroit Lions head coach, Jim Caldwell told DetroitNews.com, “When you go on the road with the wind and all those conditions, it may make you think about going for 2 a little bit more often,” Caldwell said Monday. “But even more so, I’m sure there are going to be some teams that we play against — (and) we may be one of them — that decide to go for 2 every single time. So with the point differential, you’re going to have to be good at that particular execution of the 2-point play.”"

This rule may impact teams like the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers more than other teams because all three teams have high scoring offenses (meaning more extra point decisions to make) and play their home games outdoors in locales that often see poor weather. But, it is also possible that teams which play indoors most of the time might overthink the extra point decision when playing in bad weather.

As for Dallas, last season the team attempted zero two-point conversions and Dan Bailey was perfect on extra point attempts. Playing home games in the enclosed AT&T Stadium will mean that the Cowboys should not be affected by the new rule as much as other teams may be.

However, Dallas plays seven road games in open-air stadiums (at the New York Giants, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Miami Dolphins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Washington Redskins, the Green Bay Packers and the Buffalo Bills) the last three of which are to be played in December in northern cities where the weather is unpredictable.

Given the unpredictability of how this new rule will impact the game, Dallas will need to be able to rely on Dan Bailey to convert extra points at a rate of 98% or more. In a league where 46% of the time the margin of victory is seven points or less (15.6% of the time the game is decided by only three points) Bailey’s accuracy could give the Cowboys a huge advantage over teams with an unstable kicking situation and he might be the difference in whether or not the Cowboys are able to reach their lofty goals for 2015.

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