Friday, January 31, 2014
Cowboys position breakdown: Specialists
By Calvin Watkins
Cowboys reporters Calvin Watkins and Todd Archer break down the Cowboys, position by position, analyzing what the players did in 2013, what they can do in the future and what the team can do to improve the position in 2014.
Under contract: Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. LaDouceur and Dwayne Harris.
A look back: Special teams coach Rich Bisaccia took over a unit in need of a new voice and provided solid results. You can start with kicker Dan Bailey, who converted 93.3 percent of his field goal tries and was perfect from 40-49 yards (10-10) and made 6-of-7 field goal attempts from 50 plus yards. Bailey was so good, the Cowboys avoided any contract issues by giving him a contract extension worth $22.5 million with $7.5 million guaranteed. Well deserved. Chris Jones also had a solid season as the punter, finishing eighth with 30 punts inside the 20 and he had a 39.1 net average. Dwayne Harris emerged as a return threat during the season. He finished eighth in kickoff return yards with 857 and despite just 256 punt return yards, he did score a touchdown and when he missed a game due to injury, replacement Michael Spurlock returned a punt 62 yards. If there were any negatives it was centered on rookie Terrance Williams, who fumbled an opening kickoff and probably should have stayed in the end zone for a few returns.
A look ahead: This group has no issues. L.P. LaDouceur is one of the best deep snappers in the league, Bailey morphed into a reliable if not one of the Top 5 kickers in the league and Harris is a legit threat on returns. Injuries are always a concern, Harris missed three games with a hamstring injury, but Cole Beasley (6.8 average on 10 punt returns) was a capable backup and you could always punt Dez Bryant back there.
A look out: Williams is someone who can improve in this area and might get a few looks during training camp again. Bryant and Beasley are solid backups for Harris, who has become a solid returner.