If you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan, then you likely have a visceral reaction when reading the words “special teams.”
In 2019 Dallas’ special teams units were some of the worst in the entire league. They faced a plethora of problems, ranging from never finding a reliable kicker, failing to create big plays on returns, seeing a drop in Chris Jones’ punting, and allowing a blocked punt to New England which turned the game.
It was awful. Flat out awful. And it deeply handicapped the team as a whole.
So why should you have hope that the 2020 unit will be better?
Well, for starters, new special teams coordinator John Fassel has done it before. Fassel took the Rams’ special teams from 26th to 4th (by DVOA) in just one season back in 2012/2013, and kept them in the top ten through the 2017 season.
“I look forward to building it how I want to build it…What’s happened here in the past, I can’t speak of that. I look forward to teaching the players and getting them to be prideful in what they do” – John Fassel.
Fassel has also brought in some of his old companions – like former Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein, who had an All Pro season under Fassel in 2017.
It’s nearly impossible to project or predict how special teams units will perform, and even harder to guess what a kicker will accomplish on a game-to-game basis. But Fassel’s hire signifies that the Cowboys are taking the third phase of the game more seriously in 2020.
While it’s the offense and defense which receive most of the criticism and praise on Monday mornings, it’s often this third phase which can greatly impact the game. No matter how much firepower the Cowboys offense possesses, if they can’t improve in the kicking game (when covering, receiving, and scoring) they could face many of the same downfalls they did in 2019.