FRISCO, Texas - If you're not getting better, you're getting worse. That's a phrase that can be used often in any circumstance, but especially in football, where the NFL is driven by parity every season.
The Cowboys were able to make a run and get into the playoffs, winning the NFC East for the third time in five seasons. But even owner/GM Jerry Jones has made it clear, his team needs to keep improving and take its success to the next level.
So as we head into the 2019 offseason, let's look at each position on the team, and just what needs to transpire so the Cowboys can indeed, take that next step.
Today, we'll conclude the series with a closer look at special teams.
His Next Step?
What a year it was for the place-kicking position. The Cowboys' decision to cut Dan Bailey at the end of the preseason proved to be the right call, considering Bailey's struggles in Minnesota and how Brett Maher performed for the Cowboys in 2018. But even though Maher's strong leg produced a franchise-record 62-yard kick and he was successful on 6-of-7 attempts from 50 yards and beyond, it wasn't always smooth for the first-year kicker. Maher missed an extra point and two others in the 30-39-yard range, but overall he was usually reliable. His next step would be to become automatic with those intermediate attempts. He was 13-19 on field goal attempts from 30-49 yards.
Their Next Step?
As a unit, the special teams could use a jolt in the return game. With the NFL rules that widely limit kickoff returns, it's the punt return aspect where the Cowboys could show improvement. We saw Tavon Austin make a big return in the playoffs, but he was out most of the year with injuries and therefore, the Cowboys didn't have much of a replacement as Cole Beasley's longest return was just 14 yards. Either Austin is re-signed or the Cowboys need to find a dynamic return specialist that can help provide better field position.
Decisions to Make?
One of their most important unrestricted free agents is long snapper L.P. Ladouceur, who just completed his 14th season. And other than a head-scratching penalty in the Redskins game that cost them a chance to tie the game with a 46-yard attempt, Ladouceuer once again went through a season without a hitch. He'll turn 38 on March 13, the first day of free agency, but don't be surprised if the Cowboys sign him again, perhaps to even a two-year contract so they're not in this situation again next season.
With the special teams, nothing would be too surprising. If the Cowboys drafted a kicker in the later rounds, that would be unique, but nothing that would be a shocker. Don't expect another punter in here, but perhaps the Cowboys would add some help to the return game. If Austin and/or Cole Beasley leave in free agency, the Cowboys would not only need to add some slot receiver help, but it would be likely that person could also return punts and kickoffs. Look for an upgrade there but it wouldn't be out of the question for the Cowboys to enter the 2019 offseason without touching the punter, kicker or long snapper positions.