Dallas Cowboys: Dave Rayner

From the start, Dan Bailey has had it

January, 27, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys did not know what they had when they signed Dan Bailey as an undrafted free agent.

They did not know what they had in him with a week to go in the preseason, either. By that time the Cowboys had five kickers on the roster: David Buehler, who held the kicking job in 2010, Bailey, Shayne Graham, Kai Forbath, an undrafted free agent like Bailey but injured, and veteran Dave Rayner.

[+] EnlargeDan Bailey
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDan Bailey has made 88 of 98 field goal attempts in his three seasons.
The Cowboys missed three out of four field goal attempts in the final preseason game against the Miami Dolphins; one from Buehler and two from Rayner.

By not kicking that night, Bailey elevated himself.

About to enter his fourth season, the Cowboys rewarded Bailey last week with a seven-year, $22.5 million deal that makes him among the top 10 highest-paid kickers in the NFL. And for those believing the Cowboys made more of a mess of their salary cap with the signing, Bailey’s cap number in 2014 is less than what it would have been if they had given him the second-round tender as a restricted free agent.

“That was a huge advantage looking back at it now, to go up against guys like Shayne and they brought in Dave Rayner, guys that have been kicking in the league a while and been real successful,” Bailey said. “At the time, I was just trying to keep my head down and do my own things. I think it was invaluable to get that competition early on to nail down the job.”

It taught Bailey that every kick is a new chance. A previous make does not guarantee success. A previous miss does not guarantee failure.

Bailey has made 89 of 98 field goal attempts in his career. He has missed just two kicks in each of the last two seasons. The pressure of winning the job out of a lockout as an undrafted rookie helped prepare Bailey for end-of-game moments. His eight game-winning kicks in three seasons are a franchise record.

“I don’t think it changes too much,” Bailey said of any added pressure because of the contract. “You’re only as good as your last kick. That’s the nature of the league. You have to bring your ‘A’ game every day to practice, to the game, even off the field. You’ve got to do the right things. I don’t think it’ll have too much of an impact. I think I take pride on being mentally strong enough to put that on the back burner and focus on the task at hand.”

Bailey’s leg strength was a question when he arrived, but he had a career-high 52 touchbacks in 2013 after just 54 in his first two seasons. He also made 6 of 7 attempts from 50 yards or more after making only 5 of 9 tries in his first two years from 50 yards or more.

“A lot of it had to do with just improving my leg strength and explosiveness, that stuff I did in the offseason, but just as much as that it was just a mentality,” Bailey said. “We practice a lot of those in camp and in practice and even in the offseason. Just getting back there and kicking long field goals, it was creating more of a comfort level for myself to know those kicks do come up in games.”

For the first time in his career, Bailey will not have Chris Boniol as a kicking coach. Boniol and the Cowboys agreed to part ways in the offseason, leaving Bailey and punter Chris Jones to improve without the watchful eye of an NFL veteran.

“He was a great asset to have,” Bailey said. “He was a guy I looked up to because he’d been literally in the same shoes I’ve been in.”
IRVING, Texas – On the list of concerns entering the 2013 season for the Cowboys, Dan Bailey would rank at the bottom.

In two seasons he has made 61 of 68 field goal attempts with a number of clutch kicks to either win or tie games late in the fourth quarter or overtime.

In the offseason work open to the media, Bailey missed one kick against narrow goal posts that would have been good with the normal width between the posts.

As Bailey gets ready for his third season, he continues to search for the perfect swing, the way a golfer would. The core of his technique remains the same, but he is looking at different ways to attack the ball.

“You’re just trying to fine tune or tweak this or that,” Bailey said. “Just a half step here or there, a little different angle into the ball. But at the same time, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

At one point in Bailey’s rookie training camp, the Cowboys had four kickers on the active roster - David Buehler, Dave Rayner, Shayne Graham and Bailey – and one hurt (Kai Forbath).

Now Bailey is the only kicker on the roster.

“What helped me mentally in that area was my first year here and it was like every man for himself, so you just had to go,” Bailey said. “It was, ‘Here’s your opportunity and this is what you need to do.’ I think that helped me a lot now where I just try to focus on myself.”

Dan Bailey ready for full kickoff duty, too

August, 30, 2012
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IRVING, Texas -- Remember last year’s final cuts and how the Cowboys were picking among five kickers? Yep, five.

Shayne Graham, Dave Rayner, David Buehler, Dan Bailey and Kai Forbath were on hand, though Forbath was on the physically unable to perform list at the time. Graham got hurt. Rayner missed a kick. Buehler was too inconsistent.

Bailey won the job almost by default, then went on to have one of the best seasons in team history.

No such decision to be made this year. Bailey made all eight field goal attempts in the preseason and had three touchbacks on kickoffs. Eleven of his 17 kickoffs reached the end zone.

“It’s still an area I’m trying to improve upon,” Bailey said. “We’ve worked hard in the offseason to try to improve that. Hopefully this week I’ll get a little rest and be ready for the Giants.”

Bailey had 24 touchbacks on 67 kickoffs last year and the team eventually put Buehler, a kickoff specialist, on injured reserve with a hip injury.

“I worked hard this year to try to improve leg strength and explosiveness, stuff like that,” Bailey said. “It’s a little bit of (technique and power), but really more just strength and getting a good approach down.”

What Went Right: Dan Bailey emerges

January, 12, 2012
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This is the fourth installment in ESPN Dallas' five-part series on things that went right for the Dallas Cowboys in 2011.

2. Emergence of kicker Dan Bailey

The Cowboys had a kicking competition at training camp involving Dan Bailey, David Buehler, Shayne Graham, Kai Forbath and Dave Rayner.

Bailey and Buehler emerged as the two kickers to make the 53-man roster. As it was originally designed, Buehler would handle kickoffs and long field goals while Bailey took care of everything else.

But something happened along the way: Bailey couldn't miss. He eventually became Jason Garrett's primary field goal kicker. Buehler suffered leg injuries that sent him to injured reserve and had owner Jerry Jones questioning his conditioning.

Bailey, meanwhile, made game-winning kicks at San Francisco, at Washington and vs. Miami. He converted 26 consecutive field goals, tied for the second-longest stretch in club history and finished tied for third in the NFL with 32 made field goals. Overall, Bailey was ninth in the NFL with an 86.5 conversion percentage.

That is far better than Buehler, who made just 75 percent of his field goals.

One other item of note: Bailey made 10-12 field goals from 40-49 yards, and Buehler made just 8-11 from the same range in 2010.

Bailey did struggle down the stretch when he missed a game-winner at Arizona and had a potential game-winner against the New York Giants blocked.

Besides these late season issues, the Cowboys aren't concerned about their rookie kicker going forward. The team believes it has finally found the field goal kicker necessary to make clutch field goals down the stretch.

Dave Rayner's misses good for Cowboys

November, 9, 2011
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IRVING, Texas -- Sometimes the best moves you make are the ones you don’t make at all.

The Cowboys desperately wanted Dave Rayner to be their kicker. They signed the veteran the last week of the preseason and had him attempt two field goals at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium. He missed them both, including a badly hooked 36-yarder off the infield dirt to close the game. He missed a 51-yarder in the third quarter.

Because Rayner missed his attempts, the Cowboys were forced to go with Dan Bailey, and the undrafted rookie has been spectacular. He has made 20 of 21 tries this year, including 19 in a row, which is a team rookie record.

Incredibly, his only miss is a 21-yarder in Week 2 at San Francisco.

As for Rayner, he will be at Cowboys Stadium Sunday with Buffalo. The Bills signed him Tuesday with Rian Lindell suffering a shoulder injury against the New York Jets.

Jerry: David Buehler is 'quite a weapon'

September, 6, 2011
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The Cowboys are the only NFL team that plans to make two kickers active on game days.

Owner/general manager Jerry Jones doesn’t consider that a negative. He prefers to focus on how David Buehler, the fifth-round pick in 2009 who had a roller coaster season as the Cowboys’ lone kicker last year, can help the team as a kickoff specialist.

Never mind that the value of kickoff specialists was diminished significantly when the league’s competition committee voted to move kickoffs up five yards to the 35.

“I really feel like Buehler is quite a weapon for us,” Jones said during his regularly scheduled appearance Tuesday morning on KRLD-FM. “He can and will with that strong leg that was the reason we drafted him put that ball in and through the end zone on kickoffs. That’s a big deal. That will give us field position. You start them on the 20 every time and that’s a tremendous advantage.

“Now, other teams are going to be doing the same thing, but we’ve got a strong-legged kicker that will get it.”

Jones indicated that the decision wasn’t whether Buehler, who could also play other special teams roles, deserved a roster spot. It was whether the Cowboys needed to keep another kicker for field goals and extra points. They opted to go with rookie Dan Bailey, releasing veterans Shayne Graham and Dave Rayner.

Buehler was 24-of-32 on field goals last season, ranking 30th in the league in accuracy. He had costly misses from 44 yards or shorter in four losses, including an extra point in Arizona, and made game-winners against the Colts and Redskins.

“It was kind of a flip of the coin for us,” Jones said. “As we looked to last year, [Buehler] made some significant field goals for us and missed some field goals for us. I think we’ll be OK. We had good competition and I’m pretty sure that given the opportunity that we’ll be successful there.”
The Cowboys will release veteran kickers Shayne Graham and Dave Rayner, leaving rookie Dan Bailey and David Buehler to split the duties.

Bailey, the Lou Groza Award winner at Oklahoma State last season, will kick field goals and extra points. He had an up-and-down training camp, but he made both of his attempts during the preseason, making kicks from 37 and 41 yards.

Buehler will be a kickoff specialist, as he was his rookie season in 2009. As the lone kicker on the roster last season, Buehler ranked among the least accurate kickers in the NFL, making only 75 percent of his field goals and missing two extra points. Buehler has 51 touchbacks on 161 career kickoffs and is expected to consistently boom the ball deep into the end zone with the rule change moving kickoffs up five yards to the 35-yard line.

Graham and Rayner were signed to compete for the kicking job after Buehler and Bailey struggled in the middle of training camp. Graham, the third most accurate kicker in NFL history with an 86-percent field goal conversion rate, made his only preseason attempt with the Cowboys. Rayner missed his only two attempts, including an ugly 36-yarder on the final play of the preseason.

Rookie Kai Forbath will be eligible to come off the non-football injury reserve list after Week 6.

Cowboys can't find a kicker, so go for two

September, 2, 2011
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It’s fitting that the Cowboys preseason ended with a badly missed field goal attempt.

Dave Rayner’s ugly shank off the infield dirt at Sun Life Stadium served as one last reminder of how frustrating the Cowboys’ search for a kicker has been.

Even with the new kickoff rules, it appears that the Cowboys will go with the kicker-by-committee approach. The four candidates – not including Kai Forbath, who will be stashed on the physically unable to perform list – will probably be trimmed to two.

The value of David Buehler’s rare leg strength seemed to decrease when the NFL competition committee voted to move kickoffs up five yards, but he’s the only member of the Cowboys’ kicking contingent who can be counted on to boot the ball into the end zone on a regular basis. (Shayne Graham had a kickoff in practice last week as ugly as Rayner's shanked field goal attempt, causing coach Joe DeCamillis to dig deep into his R-rated vocabulary.) But Buehler can’t be trusted as a placekicker, as the Cowboys learned the hard way last season.

Rayner’s 0-for-2 audition went so badly that it’s hard to believe the Cowboys could seriously consider keeping him. That leaves journeyman Graham (the third most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history) and rookie Dan Bailey, who won last year’s Lou Groza Award at Oklahoma State and had an up-and-down training camp.

Can the Cowboys afford to use two roster spots on kickers? They did it a couple of seasons ago, and Jason Garrett sounded resigned to it being a strong possibility even before the preseason finale.

“I think you have to shake it out almost on a week by week basis,” Garrett said this week. “Certainly you’re going to have a plan for that for the season. I think injuries and availability of players will factor into that a lot. You’ll have to look at each other and say, ‘Ok, let’s keep this guy up, let’s put that guy down, we need the third QB this week, we don’t need the third QB, those sort of things. We’ve had some preliminary discussions as to how to approach that as an overall philosophy, but I also think [it is] a week to week decision.”

As Garrett alluded to, teams now officially dress 46 players on game days, which would include the third quarterback. (It had been 45 players plus the third quarterback.) If Stephen McGee is inactive, it would allow the Cowboys to carry an extra kicker without sacrificing depth at other spots.

Andre Gurode’s release could have created an extra roster spot for a kicker. The Cowboys are likely to only keep nine offensive linemen, plus a couple on the practice squad.

After a long, unsuccessful search, the Cowboys probably can’t afford not to go two-deep at kicker.
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Even with Dave Rayner missing field goal attempts from 51 and 36 yards and David Buehler missing from 48 yards, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones knows who will be the team’s kicker for the Sept. 11 season opener.

He just isn’t saying who, but it sounds like the Cowboys will keep two.

If it is two kickers, then Buehler will be a kickoff specialist. Rayner, who signed Tuesday, Shayne Graham and rookie Dan Bailey would be the field goal candidates.

Rayner said he slightly pushed the 51-yarder and his 36-yard attempt came off the infield dirt inside Sun Life Stadium.

“Man, that’s not how I saw that going tonight,” Rayner said. “From start to finish that was not how I had drawn it out in my head. You know what, I’m going to go in tomorrow, watch the film and get it figured out and hopefully I’ll get another shot.”

Buehler pushed his 48-yarder but made a 20-yard try and had a touchback on the opening kickoff.

“The elements were not too friendly for a kicker, but you’ve got to go out and get the job done,” Buehler said. “I hit my first field goal well and kickoff pretty well … but I need to make that 48-yarder. I know I can make every kick in front of me. I have the confidence. I have the ability. I just need to go out and do it.”

Jones admitted disappointment in the 1-of-4 evening from his kickers, but this quote makes it sound as if Buehler has a spot.

“I would like to have seen them made it, but I know this: I want that ball to go into the end zone [on kickoffs],” Jones said. “Seriously, I want it to go there every time on kickoffs. So we want that to happen.”

Cowboys make roster moves

August, 30, 2011
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IRVING -- The Cowboys moved linebacker Bruce Carter and kicker Kai Forbath to the Reserve Non-Football Injury list.

Both players will not count against the 53-man roster, but they can't play for the first six weeks of the regular season. After Week 6, the players have three weeks to practice. If they don't, they can be released or placed on injured reserve.

Carter, the Cowboys' second-round pick, hasn't practiced since undergoing knee surgery in December, when he played for the University of North Carolina. Forbath has had a quad injury since the Cowboys signed him to the training camp roster.

After signing kicker Dave Rayner, the Cowboys currently have 80 players on the roster.

Dave Rayner here to win kicker job

August, 30, 2011
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IRVING, Texas -- Moments after he was cut by Detroit, the Cowboys called Dave Rayner about a job.

It didn’t matter that the Cowboys had four kicks already in training camp.

“Obviously if they had the guy they wanted already here they wouldn’t have brought me in, so that’s what I went with,” Rayner said after Tuesday’s practice, “and obviously I talked to them yesterday and they were pretty excited about me coming in to try and win a job.”

Rayner joins David Buehler, Shayne Graham, Dan Bailey and Kai Forbath, although a quadriceps injury has kept Forbath from kicking in camp. Rayner said the coaches have not said who would kick in Thursday’s preseason finale at Miami.

Rayner made two of three tries for the Lions in the preseason. He played in eight games for the Lions last year, making 13-of-16 tries but has is a career 73.3 percent kicker.

“It’s a good thing to be wanted at another team right away because it means you did something right at the other place,” Rayner said. “I’m trying to get my bearing quick and do what I have to do.”

Cowboys add David Rayner, fifth kicker

August, 30, 2011
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IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys are cornering the market on kickers. By adding Dave Rayner to the roster Tuesday morning, they now have five on the roster.

Rayner, who was cut by Detroit on Monday, joins a crowded competition with David Buehler, Shayne Graham, Dan Bailey and Kai Forbath.

Buehler returned to practice on Monday after missing two preseason games with a hip strain. Graham made a 38-yard field goal attempt vs. Minnesota on Saturday and Bailey made attempts from 37 and 41 yards. Forbath has yet to kick with the team because of a quadriceps injury and is on the non-football injury list.

Rayner made two of three tries for the Lions in the preseason. He played in eight games for the Lions last year, making 13-of-16 tries but has is a career 73.3 percent kicker.

The Cowboys have to release two players by the end of the day to reach the 80-man limit.

Could Cowboys go young at kicker too?

August, 29, 2011
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IRVING, Texas -- One aspect of the changes along the offensive line this summer for the Cowboys has been economical. They simply did not want to pay millions to veterans they deemed to have little left.

Could they go “young” at kicker as well?

The evidence might say otherwise with the recent addition of Shayne Graham and the audition Dave Rayner will have this week, but it is possible undrafted rookie Dan Bailey will be the team’s kicker for the Sept. 11 season opener at the New York Jets.

The Cowboys went the young route last year with David Buehler and he missed crucial field goal tries in at least three games and also had a point-after attempt hit the upright that cost them the Arizona game.

Jason Garrett talks about situational football and how close the games are each week in the NFL, so it would make sense they would look at a more veteran option. Graham has made 86 percent of his kicks in the regular season. Rayner has made 73%.

But the economics could play into it. Graham would make $910,000; Rayner would make $550,000 and Bailey would make $375,000.

Cowboys will work out kickers

August, 29, 2011
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IRVING -- The Cowboys are still trying to solve their kicking situation.

The team has plans to bring in veteran Dave Rayner for a workout and quite possibly some others.

Rayner kicked with the Detroit Lions last year where in eight games he converted 81.3 percent of his field goal tries and out of 34 kickoffs had two touchbacks and 31 returned for an average of 20 yards.

Rayner has also kicked in Cinciannti, San Diego, Kansas City, Green Bay and Indianapolis.

In Saturday's preseason game vs. the Minnesota Vikings, with Buehler out with a hip flexor, Graham made one field goal and attempted five kickoffs. Bailey went 2-2 on field goals.

Forbath has yet to kick this summer due to a quad injury. While Forbath returned to practice on Monday, coach Jason Garrett said he was not ready to kick.

The Cowboys have David Buehler, Kai Forbath, Shayne Graham and Dan Bailey in camp. If the team signs Rayner, they have room on the roster for him because the team doesn't have to get down to 80 players until Wednesday.

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