FRISCO, Texas – Even in the NFL, life has a way of coming full circle.
If there was a one play that C.J. Goodwin will be remembered for the most in 2020, it was undoubtedly the onside kick he recovered late in Week 2 to help the Cowboys complete a massive comeback to beat the Falcons.
For current defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, if there was one single game that might have led to his midseason dismissal as Atlanta's head coach, it was probably that very loss to the Cowboys, 40-39, on a last-second field goal. A field goal that was only possible thanks to Goodwin's recovery.
And let's not forget the part that Goodwin actually played for the Falcons under Quinn for two years before signing with the Cowboys.
So here they are, Goodwin and Quinn reunited again in Dallas, both with slightly different roles.
Quinn, of course, is the team's DC and someone the Cowboys are counting on to turn around a defense that allowed the most points in team history in 2020.
As for Goodwin, his role is a bit different now than it was a few years ago in Atlanta. After signing with the Cowboys again this year, he returns as the special teams ace.
"It was an easy decision on my part. We just had to come to the agreement," Goodwin said of his decision to re-sign with Dallas. "I'm just blessed to be here, honestly."
And the Cowboys are rather fortunate to have him as well. In fact, Goodwin has led the squad in special teams tackles the last two seasons and can become the first player in franchise history to lead Dallas in that category for three straight years.
"I take a lot of pride in that. That's my job. That's my main job, period, now," he said. "And I want to be a leader on the field and off the field to these guys, young and old. I take a lot of pride in that and try to be the best in the league at what I do."
And it's not just making tackles in the kicking game. Goodwin seems to find other ways to make big plays on special teams, whether it's downing the ball inside the 10-yard line on punt coverage, or even coming up with a big return like he did against the Steelers, flipping the field on a 73-yard return. But his biggest play was obviously the recovery of the "watermelon" kick that traveled exactly 10 yards before Goodwin pounced on it to give the Cowboys possession.
Goodwin said that play did come up in his first conversation with Quinn this offseason.
"Yes, it did. He kind of got mad at me," Goodwin joked. "But it was funny. We forgave and we forgot."
Goodwin, however, hasn't forgotten what it was like to be coached by Quinn.
"He is a fresh face to have around here," Goodwin said. "He's such a great coach, an X's and O's coach, and he's such a player's coach."
Goodwin also reunites with former secondary mates Damontae Kazee and Keanu Neal, whom he described as "great locker room guys."
Quinn's job is to fix the defense. Kazee will be here to upgrade the safety spot and Neal is moving into a hybrid linebacker role that should help the Cowboys' pass defense.
But Goodwin also has a role as well, and that's to lead the special teams group. And with that, he's got a goal to not only put the offense in good shape, but put a few more points on the board.
"We can improve, top to bottom. There's always room for improvement," Goodwin said of the special teams. "We kind of, I'm not going to say 'struggled' on the return team, but I struggled a little bit on the return-game aspect and myself, I can improve that a lot. We're going to get in the end zone a couple of times this year."
The returners, Tony Pollard and CeeDee Lamb, are two players who are coming back from last year, along with kicker Greg Zuerlein. The Cowboys are expecting to have a new punter in either Bryan Anger or Hunter Niswander, who filled in for the second half of last year, and, of course, there will be a new deep snapper in Jake McQuaide.
But the core group of special teamers should have some familiar faces. And once again, it starts with Goodwin.