5 Wonders: Roster good, bad, roles, Austin

IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys owner and general manager has openly wondered if he did wrong by Chan Gailey by firing him as coach after two seasons, so with Gailey returning this week as Buffalo’s head coach here is another installment of 5 Wonders:

** I wonder if Chris Jones’ successful debut Sunday against Seattle could actually hurt the Cowboys. Jones averaged 43 yards on four punts in filling in for Mat McBriar and the Seahawks did not have a punt-return yard. That’s even more impressive because Leon Washington is a dangerous returner. But the nature of McBriar’s nerve injury makes it difficult for the Cowboys to cut Jones, possibly re-sign Daniel Loper or add another player at another spot and hope that Jones will not get claimed. Five teams have made in-season changes at punter this season either because of injury or performance. If the Cowboys cut Jones and he is claimed by another team, then they would be in trouble if McBriar is unable to kick this week. And that brings me to another special teams’ wonder …

** I wonder if this is the week the extra kicker on the 53-man roster gets the Cowboys in some trouble.

It’s not so much that the Cowboys have cut great players in order to save a role for David Buehler. They haven’t. The issue is they do not have a chance to develop a player on the bottom of the roster for the future because they are saving a role for Buehler. The Cowboys have four kickers/punters on the 53-man roster. That’s more than the tailbacks they have on the roster and they could be in need of adding a wide receiver by the end of the week because of Miles Austin’s hamstring injury. For the yard or so of field position they gain on average because of Buehler’s leg strength, I just don’t think it’s worth it.

** The Cowboys’ pro scouting department of Tom Ciskowski, Judd Garrett and Will McClay deserve some credit for what it has been able to pull off this season. I wonder if people realize how hard it is to find players off the street and see them contribute, but the Cowboys have been able to plug in wide receiver Laurent Robinson, fullback Tony Fiammetta, cornerback Frank Walker and guard Montrae Holland and see them succeed. Obviously the Cowboys knew about Holland, but Robinson, Fiammetta and Walker were strangers in many respects. They have all helped the Cowboys win games.

** I’ve wondered how coaches can keep players on the bottom end of the roster involved in the game plans each week, but Rob Ryan had a first against Seattle. We know he had to use Bruce Carter and Barry Church on defense because of Sean Lee’s wrist injury, but he also mixed in undrafted rookie linebacker Alex Albright, too. Ryan has said if he can find a role for a player, he’ll use them. Albright was in there not just because Anthony Spencer or DeMarcus Ware got tired. He had a role. It’s a smart move. It keeps players engaged during a long season in addition to giving some starters a few plays off.

** Many people wonder if some of the hamstring injuries we’ve seen across the league this year have to do with the lockout. Maybe. In Miles Austin’s case, however, I don’t believe so. Austin was part of every workout the team had at Southlake’s Dragon Stadium in May. He has kept himself in top shape every year he’s been with the Cowboys. As Tony Romo said, Austin is a bigger receiver and they do a ton of running. Sometimes it just happens. What I don’t wonder about, however, is the fact that when Austin is able to come back he should not be taking heavy reps in practice. This is the fourth time this year he has had some sort of hamstring flare up. When he comes back, it’s up to the coaches to make sure they can get him to the games by not giving him so much work on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.