FRISCO, Texas – It's safe to say we'll be paying attention to the kickers this summer.
For so many years the position was a foregone conclusion. Yes, the Cowboys would always bring in a kicker to help spell Dan Bailey, but that precious roster spot was always a lock.
Until it wasn't.
We know how that story played out. Brett Maher had a sensational preseason, prompting the Cowboys' stunning decision to release Bailey last summer. And Maher justified the decision, nailing 16 consecutive kicks during the first half of the season.
The back stretch saw highs and lows. Maher had some amazing moments, hitting multiple game winners, not to mention long kicks from as far as 62 yards out. He also struggled from close ranger, with multiple misses from inside 40 yards and a missed extra point.
Which begs the question, which Brett Maher are the Cowboys getting in 2019?
Rob Phillips: Every NFL kicker probably acknowledges this truth about the job: You're only good as your last kick. Maher's leg strength is a major asset. Last season he tied the Jets' Jason Myers, and a Cowboys franchise record set by Dan Bailey, for most field goals of at least 50 yards (6 of 7 attempts). That said, his kicks between 40 and 49 yards are most critical. He tied for 11th in the league from that distance (7 of 11) and finished 25th in total field goal percentage among qualified kickers (29 of 36, 80.6 percent). The Cowboys believe Maher will improve on his first season in the league. It'll come down to consistency on those 'money' kicks.
Lindsay Draper: One of the most bizarre experiences in my six seasons with the Cowboys was when the club decided to move on from Dan Bailey. I think some of the media team is still trying to wrap their brains around it. We weren't paying much attention, then he was gone. Things are different with Maher – he's got so much attention on him, and his shortcomings are much different than Bailey's were. This team is known for being in tight games that come down to the wire, and Maher tends to miss the short, seemingly routine kicks. That makes me a bit nervous going into the season.
Bryan Broaddus: Nothing can derail the fortunes of a team more than having a kicker that the coaches or players have no confidence in. Look what happened to the Chicago Bears last season in the playoffs. A division winner was knocked out of the playoffs by a shaky kicking situation. As confident as I am in Brett Maher making kicks from long distance, I am just as nervous about those from a short distance. The one thing I appreciated about Dan Bailey was his ability to consistently make kicks no matter where they put the ball down. The one thing we all know about the Jason Garrett Era is that this team plays in plenty of tight games. There have been games where it's come down to a made or missed field goal, so having that confidence in your kicker is an absolute must. If I'm honest, there is a side of me that still has doubt.
David Helman: I know there are a lot of people out there who don't completely trust Brett Maher. I don't think the Cowboys' coaches are among those people. The whole reason they picked Maher over Dan Bailey was because of his mental toughness and his confident attitude. Despite his shortcomings, I don't think their confidence has wavered. That's not to say Maher will definitely keep his job. He still needs to perform. But I guess I think his leash is longer, so to speak, than a lot of people seem to believe.