While free agency officially begins in March, roster turnover isn't too far away. The Cowboys will indeed add and presumably release players, along with letting some go without a new contract.
However, the majority of the 2018 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they've been and where they're going.
Today, we'll continue the series with punter Chris Jones.
Views of #6 Punter Chris Jones from the 2017-18 Regular Season.
What's Been Good:
When the Cowboys signed him to an extension in training camp, it might've been a surprise to some, especially the timing of the deal that will pay him about $2 million per season. But the Cowboys have to be ecstatic about locking him up through 2021 after he easily had his best season of his career. He didn't make the Pro Bowl in 2017, but there's no way Jones could've been that far off. Not only does his 34 punts inside the 20 rank second in the NFL and first in the NFC, Jones ranks eighth in the league in net punting average at 41.4 yards. And there certainly weren't a lot of punt being returned on him as opponents had just 75 total punt return yards. Not only that, Jones served as the holder for two different kickers with no apparent issues. And if you want him to run or throw passes on fake punts, Jones showed he could do that as well.
What's Been Bad:
This is really close to non-applicable as it gets. Nothing Jones did in 2017 was bad. Didn't really even have a bad game where it affected the Cowboys and the outcome. His 44.1 average ranks near the bottom of the league, but that's not exactly a bad stat. More important than booming punts is hang-time and direction to limit the returns. Obviously, with just 75 total punt return yards in 2017, Jones wasn't placing a huge priority in flipping the field with long punts.
While Jones was a weapon with his punts, the memorable highlight saw him put both of his legs to work. Against the Raiders in Week 15, the Cowboys were losing momentum in a hurry until Jones broke off a 24-yard run on a fake punt in the third quarter. The play sparked the Cowboys to a touchdown in an eventual 20-17 victory.
The next thing for Jones is to make the Pro Bowl, which isn't really in his control. Let's see how he does with a new special teams coach – likely to be Keith O'Quinn – but it's doubtful Jones' role or production will change much at all. If the Cowboys can become an even more consistent defensive team, they should be able to utilize Jones' strengths even more, relying on his ability to place the ball inside the 10 to keep winning field-posiiton battles.
- Doesn't nearly get the credit he deserves for what he does.
- Is reliable in so many areas that he'd be hard to replace.
- Is a weapon in every sense of the word.
- Not only as a punter but holder and threat to pull off the trick play.
- One of the better athletes on the squad regardless of position.
- Is the type of player that you can put a lot on and he won't break down.
- The bigger the situation, the better he performs.