returns, 14th in the NFL.
Jones & Jones sure could make a difference.
While these units didn't kill the Cowboys, they certainly didn't assist as much as you'd hope for on a 13-3 team.
No, the killers were the coverage teams. Raw numbers make you groan when looking at the punt coverage. (Come on, get ready.) The Cowboys finished 29th in the league last year, only Arizona, Detroit and Indianapolis worse. And that's with McBriar ranked fourth in gross punting (47.1 average) and seventh in net punting (38.5).
Now kick-off coverage was nothing to write home about. The Cowboys finished 20th there, and don't be blaming Folk for all that. Seems as though poor coverage forced the Cowboys to directionally kick more, which shortened his distance in an attempt to corner return guys to one side or the other of the field. But teams' average start still was the 29.3-yard line, ranking the Cowboys 25th in the league. (Their own average start was but 14th.)
So to me, coverage teams need to become the most improved units on the team. No more 103-yard kick-off returns for touchdowns, not to mention six others for at least 36 yards. No more 85-yard punt returns for touchdowns, not to mention four more for at least 20 yards.
Maybe help is on the way. You would think those drafted cornerbacks, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick, should be special teams dynamos on coverage teams, and Scandrick has a kick-blocking reputation. I'm told Tashard Choice is capable of covering kicks, and getting Deon Anderson back on special teams will be a huge bonus. Plus, keep an eye, I'm guessing, on Erik Walden. Sure seems athletic enough to play on special teams, which might be his ticket onto the 53-man roster, much the way Kevin Burnett first made his impression.
So there. Feel a lot better about coming up with a much more solid answer instead of hem-hawing around the subject of Cowboys weaknesses. There aren't many - on paper - but here is one, albeit not so sexy, to sink your teeth into. And unfortunately there will be no sure way to tell if the much-needed special teams improvement has taken place until Aug. 9, the night they play that first preseason game in San Diego, since there are no live (tackling) special teams sessions in training camp.
We'll find out then if indeed something more special is in the air.