Before training camp even started, the Dallas Cowboys had some question marks about certain position groups on the roster. There was concern if adding rookie Tyler Smith was enough to reboot a struggling offensive line. The linebacker corps seemed pretty thin given one of its expected major contributors (Jabril Cox) hadn’t played in many months due to injury. And, of course, the wide receiver corps was missing two vital pieces from 2021.
Camp has helped with some of these things. The team added free agent LB Anthony Barr to help bolster the roster. Plus, Smith has had some standout moments in camp that give Cowboys fans faith that he can be great in his rookie year.
However, not only did some position groups get worse, but new concerns were added. The WR group lost James Washington to an ankle fracture and the team has yet to replace him with a veteran option. Plus, in an unexpected turn of events, the position of kicker is up in the air.
Although the Cowboys had incredibly high hopes for UDFA Jonathan Garibay, he struggled mightily in camp. Whether it was extra-point attempts, short field goals, or long field goals, Garibay seemed to miss more than he made. To make matters worse, his competition, Lirim Hajrullahu was “better,” but not by much. A new problem was emerging and the only thing the Cowboys could do at that point was invite four incredibly mediocre kickers in for a tryout.
The team ended up signing former Cowboy Brett Maher and releasing Garibay, much to fans’ displeasure. So, Maher and Hajrullahu will compete in a battle of the mediocre, again showing that the Cowboys are in trouble.
So much so, that ESPN’s Bill Barnwell noticed. Instead of pointing out woes at other position groups, the writer listed the kicking position as the Cowboys’ biggest weakness. To have an issue worse than having one starting WR with meaningful pro experience for Week 1 is far from ideal.
The good news is that the Cowboys were in this article because ESPN is considering them playoff contenders for 2022. The bad news is, that the front office let this “Achilles heel” happen.
The Cowboys’ front office’s inability to take action on the kicking position has caused a huge problem
The Cowboys were right to cut Greg Zuerlein. He was highly inconsistent and didn’t do his job. Jerry Jones has always said that consistency in a kicker is the most important thing.
If that was the case, why wouldn’t the front office get a free agent kicker as soon as they dropped Zuerlein? Why wouldn’t they prioritize the position in the draft when there were several talented kickers still available in the fifth and sixth rounds? Why didn’t they prioritize a position that caused them to lose games last year?
Here is what Barnwell said in his article:
"The Cowboys led the league in points scored in spite of their kicking last season. Greg Zuerlein hit just under 83% of his field goals and failed on six of his 48 extra point tries, leading a cap-strapped team to cut him. It was no surprise the organization tried to find a cheaper solution at the position, especially given that it once landed on a longtime kicker in undrafted free agency by signing Dan Bailey in 2011.Team owner Jerry Jones & Co. were probably hoping for something similar when they added Jonathan Garibay out of Texas Tech. Garibay attempted only 27 total field goals for the Red Raiders, but he went 15-of-16 on those tries a year ago and was 49-of-50 on extra points. So far, that hasn’t translated to pro success, as he has reportedly struggled during camp, particularly during moments in which the Cowboys have asked him to kick on short notice to simulate clutch situations.Not great. Dallas brought in competition to compete with Garibay in 32-year-old journeyman Lirim Hajrullahu, who made his NFL debut with Dallas a year ago. Hajrullahu went 8-for-8 on extra points and 4-for-5 on field goals during his time with the Panthers, and he hit 83.3% of his field goals during a six-year run in the CFL, but the choices here are between two unproven players. This feels like a situation Jones will be evaluating after every missed kick."
At this point, they are stuck with what they have. We can all hope that Maher or Hajrullahu magically have stellar seasons in their 30s after bouncing around the CFL and NFL, but it seems unlikely.
A front office can’t account for injuries. Losing Washington was nobody’s fault. But this kicker situation is a direct reflection of a lack of doing something when it was needed.