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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Training Camp Preview: Special Teams

Jess Haynie

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Brett Maher, Chris Jones

For years, the Dallas Cowboys enjoyed comfortable stability in their special teams groups. But 2019 has a big question mark at kicker, and how the Cowboys handle that spot could have a major impact on game outcomes. What does that mean for the 2019 training camp?

Before we get to kicker, let's get the two simpler spots out of the way. Dallas brings back Punter Chris Jones and Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur as bedrocks on special teams. Jones has been with the Cowboys since 2011, and Ladouceur has been here since 2005.

Kasey Redfern is also here right now, presumably as just an extra leg for training camp and preseason. He's listed as a punter on the roster but has also done some work at kicker this summer. Dallas also has Drew Scott as a backup long snapper, again just to give their veteran some rest when needed.

It is worth nothing that 2018 was a down year for Chris Jones. He wasn't bad, but his averages and directional kicking weren't as strong as in previous seasons. He counts over $2 million against the Cowboys' salary cap the next three years, so continued decline could mean an early end to his contract.

But it'd be a bad gamble to bet on either Jones or Ladouceur getting bumped out by younger players in 2019. Chris is also the holder on field goals and extra points, and the Cowboys want as much stability as possible in these other areas to give Kicker Brett Maher his best chance at success.

Brett Maher

Dallas Cowboys K Brett Maher

While Maher pushed Dan Bailey out of Dallas last season, he didn't do enough to alleviate future concerns. The long-distance kicks and Special Teams Player of the Week awards were great, but Maher's total field-goal accuracy of 80.6% was near the bottom of the league.

The Cowboys have yet to bring in another kicker to compete with Maher. Many, including me, have pushed the idea that Dallas should sign veteran free agent Matt Bryant. He likely remains unsigned waiting for training camps, and I expect he will be on someone's roster by the end of next week.


If Bryant is as good as he's been throughout a stellar career, even up to last year, he is a far superior kicker to Maher. He may not have the same record-breaking distance but he's very accurate from beyond 50 yards, and he's close to perfect from shorter distances.

If nothing else, I would bring a guy like Bryant in just to put some pressure on Maher. You can't simulate game-time anxiety in July or August, but anything you can do to make your kicker sweat helps evaluate him for the regular season.

It's understandable that Dallas wants Maher to be their guy. He has a unique talent with his range and he's proven himself on game-winning kicks. If the rest of his game comes around this year, Brett will be one of the elite kickers in all the NFL.

But a 35-yard field goal is worth the same three points as one from 60, and missing one of those at the end of a game could be the difference in winning the division or even making the playoffs. The Cowboys had better be sure about Brett Maher, because their season could swing on his development.

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OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS


Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Cowboys K Brett Maher’s 63-Yard Field Goal Sets New NFL Record

Jess Haynie

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Brett Maher

After hitting a 63-yard field goal last night in the Dallas Cowboys' win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Kicker Brett Maher now owns the NFL record for most field goal made at 60 yards or longer. It was the third 60-plus FG of his career and second so far this season.

Maher hit a 62-yarder last week in Dallas' loss to the New York Jets. That kick tied him with Sebastian Janikowski and Greg Zuerlein for having two career field goals of 60 or more.

Now Brett stands alone in that category. Last night's kick also was just one yard shy of Matt Prater's record for the NFL's longest field goal; Maher hit from 64 yards in 2013.

If Brett Maher ever gets a chance to kick in Denver, he may have a great shot at breaking Prater's record as well. According to NBC's data from last night, Maher's kick would have been good from 66 yards out.

It was a good night overall for the Cowboys kicker. Maher had two other makes from 26 and 29 yards.


Despite his heroics at times, Brett Maher has been one of the least accurate kickers in the NFL the last two years. Even after last night Brett is hitting just 71.4% of his field goals so far in 2019; that ties him for 25th in the league.

The most puzzling aspect of all with Maher is how much he struggles with shorter range kicks. You almost have more confidence in him kicking from 60 yards out than attempting an extra point.

Few kickers could survive that kind of performance and uncertainty, but few can do what Maher can with his long range ability. It's a risk/reward situation that the Cowboys are continuing to work with.

For today, at least, Maher and his team are basking in the glory of a great game. Let's hope both can keep up the positive momentum.


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Game Notes

Cowboys Defense Dominates in Crucial Win vs Eagles

Matthew Lenix

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Cowboys Defense Dominates in Crucial Win vs Eagles

Coming into yesterday's battle for NFC East supremacy against the Philadelphia Eagles the Dallas Cowboys defense was looking to regain some swagger. The Green Bay Packers were led by Aaron Jones who had a career day with 182 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns two weeks ago in a 34-24 beatdown of the Cowboys. Last week at Metlife Stadium, the New York Jets got a career day themselves from their former third overall pick in Sam Darnold who threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns in his return from Mononucleosis that kept him out since Week one. The Cowboys were handed their third consecutive loss 24-22 and their season was headed down the drain.

It would be paramount for the Cowboys defensive unit to set a tone and they didn't waste any time doing so. The Eagle's first possession would only last five plays as Jaylon Smith forced a fumble by Tight End Dallas Goedert that was recovered by Maliek Collins. Just two plays into their second drive, Carson Wentz was strip-sacked by All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence inside the Eagles own 15 which was recovered by Antwaun Woods. Both turnovers led to scores for the Cowboys as they took an early 14-0 lead in the games first six minutes.

After the Eagles scored on a seven-play 87-yard drive with a little over four minutes to go in the first quarter they would only run 12 plays the rest of the first half, and the Cowboys went into the locker room with a commanding 27-7 lead.

The second half would be a continuation of the first 30 minutes of play. After an exchange of field goals in the third quarter, the Eagles were simply out of their misery early in the fourth. Wentz was intercepted by Safety Xavier Woods and he committed his second fumble of the game on the very next drive. In the end, the Cowboys whipped the Eagles from start to finish 37-10 and claimed outright first place in the NFC East.


There were several encouraging signs defensively for the Cowboys vs the Eagles. Maliek Collins matched his season total with five tackles and also recovered a fumble. Both starting defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn each had a sack showing exactly why the Cowboys put this combo together, to terrorize quarterbacks. Cornerback Jourdan Lewis had four tackles and a sack, a great follow up to his four tackle performance with an interception a week earlier, further making his case to be the top guy at nickel corner in this defense. The old veteran Sean Lee didn't go unnoticed either as his seven tackles were tied for of the team lead. He got more snaps due to Leighton Vander Esch's early exit with a neck injury.

You expect an offense like the Eagles to make plays and score points eventually, but the Cowboys defense wasn't having any of it in this contest. In addition to giving up under 300 yards of total offense, they only allowed the Eagles to convert three third downs, go 0 for 2 in the red zone and forced four turnovers. That's a recipe for victory any Sunday.

Now, the Cowboys go into the bye week sitting on top the NFC East throne. This is the perfect time to get guys fully healthy with a clash against the New York Giants on the road awaiting them in two weeks. The Cowboys defense played with their backs to the wall and pulled out a big-time performance when they needed it the most. Consistency is what has kept them from looking like the top seven unit they were in 2018. Was this game the turning point? We shall see, but nonetheless, this showing by them was exactly what the doctor ordered.


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Cowboys Get Good News on Vander Esch, Quinn Injuries After Eagles Game

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch off to a Fast Start 1

The Dallas Cowboys got a big win last night over the Philadelphia Eagles, but there was concern that they also suffered some big injuries. But good news; despite their leaving the game and not returning, both LB Leighton Vander Esch and DE Robert Quinn appear to have avoided any significant issues.

Vander Esch suffered a neck stinger in the second quarter and did not come back. It appears he was held out as a precautionary measure, and the Cowboys' 21-7 lead at that point may have contributed to the decision.

Jane Slater on Twitter

Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch just told me he's good. First neck stinger. Disputes "history" of neck issues reports. Told me he would have continued playing but "wasn't up to me

Quinn's rib injury also occurred before halftime and ended his night. The veteran picked up his obligatory sack before going out, and it sounds like he should be fine for Dallas' next game.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

From @GMFB: The #Cowboys got a few injury scares, but LB Leighton Vander Esch (neck) and LB Robert Quinn (rib) are expected to be OK. https://t.co/ld1mncRkNw

These defensive standouts join a host of Cowboys starters who are going to benefit greatly from the team's bye week.


Dallas went into the game with injury concerns to WRs Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, OTs Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, and CBs Byron Jones and Anthony Brown. Of those, Brown was the only one who did not play last night.

Still, all of these players need a week to rest and be ready for the long haul of the regular season.

The Cowboys will get back to work in Week 9 with a road trip to New York, facing the Giants on Monday Night Football.

Thankfully, it looks like Leighton Vander Esch and Robert Quinn will both be ready to play in two weeks.


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