3. Kicking competition is a problem
Can there really be a competition if both competing players aren’t good?
There are still two months until the season with preseason games in between, but the early return of rookie Jonathan Garibay and returning kicker Lirim Hajrullahu (High-ra-la-who) is not promising. Both players have struggled, whether just practicing their kicks or during “mojo moments.”
It can be intimidating for a rookie kicker to come into Dallas and solve the team’s kicking problems immediately. The fanbase had seen what automatic looks like when Dan Bailey was here many seasons. Unfortunately for Garibay, the league has seen rookie kickers dominate in their first year, most recently with Evan McPherson of the Bengals carrying the team through the playoffs. Garibay even made some impressive, high-pressure kicks in college. But he simply looks out of sorts here.
Hajrullahu is back on the team after being with the Cowboys last year, appearing in just one game. The 32-year-old made his NFL debut in 2021 after a successful career in the CFL. Hajrullahu is known for being clutch, having kicked a game-winning field goal in the 2017 Grey Cup, the CFL’s version of the Super Bowl.
Last week, head coach Mike McCarthy said, “It’s going to be a very, very competitive contest for those guys. We got to really max out the opportunities with the practice structure.” He did just that in yesterday’s practice.
During the team’s “mojo moments,” McCarthy put pressure on both kickers with random penalties increasing the distance of the attempts and trying to mess up their rhythm. Maybe his tactics worked because Garibay was 3 of 4, and Hajrullahu was 3 of 3.
The Cowboys have much to figure out before the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dallas knows that the accuracy of the kicker can decide the game when playing the Bucs, as it did last season. Garibay and Hajrullahu have their chance to change the narrative. For now, Hajrullahu looks to be ahead in the battle, but neither of them has been remotely consistent.