The Dallas Cowboys special teams are an overlooked part of the game that I believe will help propel them into the playoffs.
One of the most overlooked but important parts of the game is special teams. Anyone can easily spot when a kicker is struggling with confidence, accuracy, and range but there is so much more that can be tweaked to help a team.
The Dallas Cowboys ranked at or near the bottom of every special team’s statistic. Needless to say that the only place to go is up. Kicker Brett Maher was eventually released but not before he missed 10 field goals during the season. One of the main reasons the Dallas Cowboys kept him was because of his strong leg but I was astonished to find out that only 52 percent of his kickoffs were touchbacks.
Kicker Kai Forbath was retained this offseason after making all 10 of his attempts replacing Maher in Week 14. Very good move but I think that competition is still needed. Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein is still available and has ties to new special teams coach John Fassel.
Placekickers are very hard to find so having two come to training camp is not a bad thing. There always seems to be a team that has kicker issues at the end of training camp and having assets for trade isn’t out of the question when it comes to kickers.
Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur was also re-signed but is entering his16th season. I’m not at the point where he needs to be replaced but how much longer can he go? I am a fan of having a long snapper double at another position to save a roster spot so that might be an option for the Cowboys moving forward.
Punter Chris Jones had a down year which makes it feasible that the Dallas Cowboys will bring in some competition. His 41.6 punting average ranked 34th in the league. Bringing in a younger, cheaper option would be beneficial financially heading into the future.
Wide receiver Tavon Austin and running back Tony Pollard were the primary returners. I am not as concerned with Pollard as Kickoff returns have been down as whole throughout the league because of player safety.
Austin as a punt returner has left me wanting more. His speed should be game-breaking in the return game but it just simply has not been there. John Fassel was on the staff when the L.A. Rams traded him to Dallas so it speaks volumes that he has not yet come to terms on a contract with the team.
It took me some time but the last time I remembered being excited with the return game was when receiver Lucky Whitehead manned those duties. I see all the big names being floated around during free agency and draft scenarios but a returner has to be somewhere in that mix.
One of the things I see the Dallas Cowboys doing early in free agency is retaining a lot of their role players. This makes me believe that the special team’s scheme was somewhat flawed last year and that the players are getting another crack at it.
The Dallas Cowboys were in a handful of close games last year. I believe that we would have won or had a better shot at winning if our special teams were at least average. I think John Fassel, coupled with the Cowboys’ newfound analytic stance, is going to continue his creativity.
Fassel has often had his punter run and throw in short-yardage situations out of a punt formation so be ready for anything when it comes to special teams. He is a bit of a mad scientist but it is a refreshing change from what Cowboy fans are accustomed to. So can the special teams unit propel us into the playoffs? I believe that they hold the key.