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Mailbag: Competition For The Punter Job?


Given that practice squad players could play an even bigger role this season if a team is hit hard by COVID, finding players who can contribute well down the roster will be vital this training camp with no preseason games this year. Besides more scrimmages or setting up game-like situations in practices, any ideas of how the rookies and backups will be able to stand out? — MARCO ASPAAS / VANCOUVER, WA

Jonny: I honestly don't know the answer to that question. This will be a disadvantage to having an almost completely new coaching staff. The Jason Garrett regime had a strong grasp of their practice squad and likely always had a name or two in their heads who they knew understood schemes and might be ready for opportunities. I think this might come down to scouting and front office. Did the (and will the) Cowboys find game-ready rookies and backups who have what it takes to fill in?

David: It's an undeniable challenge in these circumstances, and I'm sure the coaching staff isn't happy about it. I think that's why we could see a heavy emphasis on veteran players this year. Everyone is intrigued and excited about rookies, but coaches are going to want guys who they can trust to do the job without a ton of practice time necessary. I don't know this for sure, but I think a lot of rosters are going to skew toward experience over rookie potential.

I'm very surprised that we have not seen the Cowboys attempt to bring in any competition at punter. They made the move to bring in competition at kicker, so I'm puzzled why they wouldn't do the same thing with punter. Chris Jones had a bad year last year, and his trajectory seems to be going down. Are there any decent UDFAs available that could at least create some competition? —DAN ZECHMAN / GARNER, NC

Jonny: When the dust settled on free agency, I think that was an interesting thing to notice. My only conclusion is that new special teams coordinator John Fassel is well-accomplished and well-respected in this league. So any decisions he signed off on likely have logic to them. An optimistic take on it would be that he trusts Jones, but also that he has a particularly good eye on the available punters who Dallas might be able to sign down the line without having to fill a roster spot before it's proven necessary.

David: I think Jonny hit the nail on the head here. If the Cowboys didn't bring in competition at punter, it's probably because John Fassel thinks he can work with Chris Jones. And don't get me wrong: the punting game has been lacking for a couple of years. Jones needs a rebound. But I trust Fassel's track record, and I think he can help make that happen.

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