Presented by

Mailbag: Kicking Competition? Zeke's Workload?


We often read about the importance of having more than one kicker in camp, if for no other reason than to save that one kicker's leg from overusage. Why is that really necessary? — WILLIAM LOTT / CARROLLTON, TX

Rob: That's just one reason why teams do it, especially if a veteran kicker needs to manage his leg and body heading into the season. (Greg Zuerlein's situation was unique last year coming off back surgery. He didn't really kick full-go until the team got back to Dallas.) This year in particular, the Cowboys understandably want to create some competition in camp. Rookie Jonathan Garibay has a lot of potential but obviously is unproven at this level. You can't create stadium-level crowd-noise pressure in camp, but you can have someone else on the roster pushing you every day. So that's one reason why Lirim Hajrullahu is expected to sign back here.

Kyle: I think it's necessary for logistical purposes more so than workload. Having quicker turnaround and even a little competition doesn't hurt. Especially when the kickers on the roster are unproven and young. Right now, with the addition of Liram Hajrullahu to the kicking room should push Jonathan Garibay to continue his growth this offseason. He's not technically a savvy veteran just yet but having him around to show the rookie kicker how things are done, and even push for his job, will be a bigger benefit than anything else.

Besides a healthy one, what would you consider a successful season for Zeke as far as production? — NATE MATTISON / GLENS FALLS, NY

Rob: We're going to hit this topic more in "20 Questions" as we get closer to camp, but I do think the answer correlates to Zeke's health and availability. In the first five games last year he averaged 21 carries a game and 5.3 yards a carry. He partially tore the PCL in his right knee in Week 4, and as the knee clearly bothered him more and more, it showed in his production. The last five games of the season, he averaged 13 carries a game and 3.7 yards a carry. It's a popular criticism to say he hasn't had the same number of explosive runs from his first couple years in the league, and that's true. But we can't forget that he looked in the best shape of his career in Oxnard and had a really good preseason and first month of the season before the injury. As long as he's healthy, he and Tony Pollard can still be an excellent combination provided that the offensive line is playing at high level, too.

Kyle: Great lead-in, because "stay healthy" would've been my number one answer. But as far as his game goes, he needs to up his yards per carry on average while continuing his production in the red zone, in short yardage situations, and as a receiver out of the backfield. These last few years he's done all he's been asked as a receiver, a blocker, and a short yardage back. However, his explosiveness has taken a hit from the 4.6 yards per carry through his first four years to just 4.1 over the last two. And even that number is inflated from certain blowout performances. If he can create more explosive plays while still being well-rounded, I'd consider it a win for this offense.

Related Content