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Offseason | 2021

Roster Reset: Snap Decisions On Special Teams


The free-agent signing period is not over by any means, but it certainly has gotten quieter both with the Cowboys and around the league. The focus is shifting now to the NFL Draft, which is scheduled for April 29-May 1.

While it's still possible to see more moves between now and the draft, the bulk of the player movement has already passed.

With that being said, let's take a quick look at each position on the roster and see where things stand heading into the draft later this month.

Today, let's focus on the special teams units.

What Changed: The biggest change will be at the spot that rarely gets noticed – and that's a good thing.

The deep snapper position hasn't seen a change since the 2005 season when Bill Parcells decided to make a change in Week 3 to replace a struggling Jon Condo and he signed L.P. Ladouceur out of convenience, since the team was staying in California for the week and needed someone who could get to the team quickly. Ladouceur not only made the tryout, but he followed up with 17 seasons of perfect snaps. Now, the Cowboys have decided to move on and did not sign the unrestricted free agent. Instead, they added veteran Jake McQuaide, who has made two Pro Bowls. He's got history with special teams coach John Fassel with the Rams and should slide into the role nicely, although he's still got big shoes to fill.

Another change the Cowboys made just recently is the addition of punter Bryan Anger, a nine-year veteran who has been with three teams, most recently in Houston.

What's Here: Fassel enters his second season in Dallas and has plenty of familiarity surrounding him. Not only has he brought in both McQuaide and kicker Greg Zuerlein over from the Rams, but he's also had eight games with the incumbent starter at punter in Hunter Niswander, who took over for the injured Chris Jones the second half of last season. While Anger has been signed to compete, don't rule out Niswander getting the job. It should be an interesting competition – one that could come down to the other essential duties of a punter, which could include kicking off and/or holding for field goals.

Zuerlein is coming off a solid season in which he made 34 field goals. The only time he's connected on more kicks in a season was in 2017, when he made the Pro Bowl after hitting 38 field goals. He also made two game-winning field goals and a memorable "watermelon" onside kick that helped them beat the Falcons.

What's Next: This one might be the toughest question to answer because as it stands right now, things look rather set on special teams, that's nearly impossible to say in mid-April. Obviously, there will be changes among the core special teams groups, but as for now, here's how things will shake out on special teams:

  • Greg Zuerlein will return as the kicker with no competition on the roster right now.
  • The punter position will come down to either Niswander or Anger.
  • Jake McQuaide takes over as the deep snapper, replacing L.P. Ladouceur.
  • The primary punt returner in 2020 was CeeDee Lamb, whose 7.2 yard average was 11th in the NFL, but second among rookies.
  • Tony Pollard ranked fourth in the NFL with 766 kickoff return yards, the most by a Cowboys player in a season since 2013.
  • As for core special teams players, the Cowboys brought back leading tackler C.J. Goodwin and expect to get CB Maurice Canaday in the mix after he opted out last season.

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