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Mailbag: Taking Fewer Risks On Special Teams?


John Fassel dialed up quite a few trick plays on special teams last season. I feel like part of that was due to game circumstances, since we were consistently playing catch up and willing to take risks. Do you think we will see less trick plays on special teams this year, since we will (hopefully) have more leads? — H. MELVIN / OCEAN CITY, NJ

David: Not really, to be honest with you. I think risk taking has always been part of John Fassel's game, and that's one of the reasons Mike McCarthy hired him. Now, I do think the Cowboys could stand to be a bit more judicious with when and how they take those risks. The fake punt on 4th & 10 on Thanksgiving was more reckless than anything, and I don't think this team needs to be reckless. But calculated risks are a good thing, and I expect we'll see more of them in Fassel's second year.

Rob: Do I expect another fake punt from inside their own 25 in the fourth quarter of a one-score game like what we saw on Thanksgiving? Not really, though I guess you can never say never. John Fassel is aggressive. We know that. I think he and Mike McCarthy will continue to be selectively aggressive based on looks they see on film and on game day. Some of those decisions did work. And you can argue that an aggressive approach on special teams can be beneficial, even if you don't run a trick play, because opponents see those plays on film and have to spend time preparing for them.

Does Josh Ball have the potential/talent to be Tyron Smith's replacement 2 to 3 years down the road? Looking at the roster, I don't see anyone that's going to be anything but a backup, ever. Except, for Ball. It's time we start considering the future at left tackle. — DAN DATTOLA / WICHITA, KS

David: We can't answer that question until we've had a chance to watch the guy play, but that's obviously the hope. There's a reason why we talked about offensive tackle as an option with the first-round pick this past spring, but the front office opted to go with Micah Parsons over Rashawn Slater. Hopefully Ball can develop into that potential replacement – we saw that happen years ago with fellow fourth-round pick Doug Free. If not, tackle will continue to be a position we talk about in future draft cycles.

Rob: I have no idea. It would be premature and borderline irresponsible for me to make a projection based on like half-a-dozen offseason practices we saw. The Cowboys believe Ball is capable of playing either tackle spot at this level. That means he's pretty talented. We'll have a much better idea once the team is in pads. It's difficult to evaluate linemen, good or bad, in just helmets and shorts.

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