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Progress Report: After 5 Games, Taking Closer Look at Cowboys’ Special Teams
FRISCO, Texas -- With only five games into the 2017 season, there’s still plenty of football left for these Cowboys as they enter the bye week. But a handful of games is also enough time to evaluate not only the team as a whole, but breaking down the three phases of the team.
So over the next three days, let’s take a closer look at what has gone right, what hasn’t been up to par and what needs to change on the offense, defense and special teams.
Today, it’s the Special Teams.
Best Performer: Dan Bailey
It is surely comforting for this coaching staff to know that every time they cross midfield, there is a chance to grab points. Even though Bailey hasn’t been asked to attempt as many field goals to this point as he did in the previous season, he has yet to miss.
He looks healthy this year after struggling with back problems last year, which robbed him of the power that we’re so accustomed to seeing. The technique is flawless and with that comes the consistency. It’s rare to see a ball off line or drifting in one direction or another. It’s usually right down the middle with the proper distance.
Like Chris Jones, Bailey has added the ability to directionally kick off. Generally, coaches are fearful of attempting to use this as a weapon because of the ball going out of bounds. Rich Bisaccia doesn’t have that concern with Bailey, and armed with that ability I believe that we’re going to see more of those types of kicks to pin opponents inside their own 15-yard line.Read
What’s Working: Chris Jones
As we’ve seen this offense struggle to move the ball consistently at various points, it has been Jones that has punted them out of trouble. He has been able to flip field position several times during these games and pin opponents deep in their own end.
Of his 20 punts, 12 of them have had opponents starting inside their own 20. Only two other punters in the league have had the success that Jones has had in those situations. To illustrate his effectiveness as well, Jones has only had one touchback on those 20 punts.
The Cowboys are ranked 10th in the league when it comes opponents’ punt return average. As a unit they’ve allowed 5.6 yards per return, which is in large part due to Jones’ ability to directionally pin opponents to one side of the field. He’s been outstanding in controlling the opponent’s ability to set up any type of return, which has helped his teammates cover.
Where Jones has also been outstanding is as a holder. Dan Bailey has yet to miss an extra point and field goal, which is a direct reflection of the snapper and holder.
Not There Yet: Punt Returns
I was one of those who believed that, if given a chance, Ryan Switzer could be a real difference maker as a punt returner.
My thoughts there haven’t changed despite his fumble in the Los Angeles Rams game. The defense just hasn’t made enough stops to force opponents to have to punt. Switzer has had 12 opportunities to return a punt, but four of those have resulted in fair catches. The one game that he was able to really get going was against the Cardinals, where his courage was on full display. I thought that he and Chris Jones played a huge role in that victory.
If given more opportunities and the proper blocking, there is no reason that Switzer could be a difference maker each week in changing field position and put this offense in some better field position for scoring chances. Read