Dallas Cowboys: Nick Folk

IRVING, Texas -- Hey, want in on a little secret? Come a little closer, OK? And be quiet.

You ready? Jerry Jones might not be as bad at drafting NFL players as many believe.

If we use Pro Bowl selections as a barometer, which can be dicey, then Jones ranks near the top of the league. Sometimes the Pro Bowl picks are injury replacements and were second-, third- or possibly fourth-alternates depending on whether the first-team picks were injured or playing in the Super Bowl.

That being said, since 2003, the Cowboys have drafted 12 players that earned Pro Bowl berths. Only the Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers have more with 13.

Since 2006, the Cowboys have had seven Pro Bowl selections come from their draft room. Only the 49ers (nine), Chiefs (nine), Denver Broncos (eight) and Minnesota Vikings (eight) have more.

Of the 2006-13 group all seven were one-time picks: Anthony Spencer (2012), Nick Folk (2007), Jason Hatcher (2013), DeMarco Murray (2013), Tyron Smith (2013), Dez Bryant (2013) and Mike Jenkins (2009).

Smith and Bryant have the best chance to be perennial Pro Bowlers.

The 2003-13 group consisted of five players and four made multiple Pro Bowl appearances: Terence Newman (two), Jason Witten (nine), DeMarcus Ware (seven), Marion Barber (one) and Jeremiah Ratliff (four).

Assessing a successful draft on Pro Bowls is not the best process, and the high number of Cowboys might show how top-heavy this team has been. Successful drafts are about finding starters in every round, or at least contributors over a four-year period, whether they sign second contracts with the team or not.

The Cowboys have been able to find Pro Bowlers, but Jones has not been good enough in being able to supplement those players with the bulk of their picks.

That’s a big reason why this team has missed the playoffs the past four seasons.

5 Wonders: Tony Romo back shoulder throws

June, 20, 2012
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IRVING, Texas -- We’ve got about five weeks to go before quarterbacks, first-year players, injured players and rookies report to Valley Ranch for workouts before the team flies to Oxnard, Calif., so there are plenty of things to wonder about.

Here is the latest installment of Five Wonders:

** I wonder if we’ll see the back-shoulder throw be a big part of the Cowboys' offense in 2012. Two years ago it certainly looked that way given the way Tony Romo was throwing them in training camp with Miles Austin, Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton in camp. Then the season started and we didn’t really see it much before Romo suffered a season-ending collarbone injury. To me, the back shoulder throw is impossible for a cornerback to defend. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers might be the best at it in the league with his receivers and Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham might be the best quarterback-tight end combo. It takes time for the quarterback, tight ends and receivers to become comfortable in reading the defenders’ alignments for such a throw. With Dez Bryant entering his third year, Austin healthy and Witten able to push the middle of the field, Romo should be in position to make more back-shoulder throws this year. We saw hints of those throws in the OTAs and mini-camp.

** The Cowboys have five tight ends on the 90-man roster, but only Jason Witten would be considered a top blocker. John Phillips could be an overall upgrade from Martellus Bennett as the No. 2 tight end, but in-line blocking is not his strong suit. The others are James Hanna, Andrew Szczerba and newly claimed John Nalbone. Szczerba might be the best blocker. I wonder if the team’s approach to the tight end position could mean the addition of Pat McQuistan is more than just a camp filler. They will not waste Witten as a blocker because of what he means to the passing game. McQuistan served as a tight end in jumbo packages for New Orleans last year and the Saints managed to throw out of that formation as well. I also wonder if it means the team could keep two fullbacks on the 53-man roster with Lawrence Vickers and Shaun Chapas, but I think it’s more of a McQuistan thing than a fullback thing.

**The Cowboys signed Brodney Pool early in free agency, but he received only a $100,000 signing bonus to go with a $1 million base salary. He took most of the first-team reps in the organized team activities and mini-camp, but I wonder if he is a lock to make the final roster. Some inside Valley Ranch wanted Pool over another Rob Ryan guy, Abe Elam, last year, but the Cowboys went with Elam instead. In the OTAs and minicamp practices that were open to the media, Pool was hardly noticeable. Maybe that’s a good thing, I don’t know. Maybe things will change when the pads come on. But we heard raves about Barry Church and Matt Johnson, one of their fourth-round picks last April, and Danny McCray is their best special teamer. Add Gerald Sensabaugh to the mix and you’re talking about five safeties, including Pool. At some point, it might be a numbers game or the team’s willingness to pay a guaranteed $1 million for a veteran once he’s on the opening week roster. And there’s this: Mana Silva, who was signed late last season, might be a name to watch when camp opens, too.

** I wonder if the Cowboys will bring in more competition for Dan Bailey. Not to take the kicker's job, mind you, but simply to keep some pressure on him. Bailey had a tremendous rookie season, making 32 of 37 field goal attempts and winning four games with late kicks. His kickoffs were better than they thought too. Jason Garrett mentioned at the close of the offseason that Bailey has added strength in 2012. The Cowboys have Delbert Alvarado on the roster, but he is also working as a punter. Bailey might be better served to have another leg in camp. It’s not that he can’t handle it. He showed last year he doesn’t mind the competition. Some kickers don’t like it. Nick Folk did not like it when the team drafted David Buehler in 2009.

** Bruce Carter earned a lot of raves before a hamstring strain kept him out of the final two days of minicamp. I wonder if people were/are jumping the gun on him. Like Pool, I just didn’t see him make plays in the passing game. I’ll give him a pass in the running game because without pads on it’s hard to evaluate just about anything. But Carter’s strength is his ability to run and cover, and I can’t remember a pass breakup during the team and seven-on-seven periods that I charted. Now, covering Witten is difficult for every linebacker in football, I get that. But, as Bill Parcells used to say, I’m not getting the anointing oils out just yet. My belief is that Dan Connor will be the “starter,” which means he will play running downs, and Carter will play passing downs, which means he will play a higher percentage of snaps in 2012.

Unlucky 13: Crazy losses for Cowboys

December, 12, 2011
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IRVING, Texas -- If you regularly come back to the thought that, 'Man, the Cowboys sure come up with some inventive ways to lose games,' you're right.

Since 2005, I have come up with 13 head-scratching losses that seem to define this franchise. And that does not include the humiliating 44-6 defeat at Philadelphia to close the 2008 season, which knocked the Cowboys out of a playoff spot.

Three of those losses have come this year. Three came last year. Two each in ’09, ’08 and ’06, and the one that kicked it off came on Sept. 19, 2005 (against Washington), when the Triplets – Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith - were inducted into the Ring of Honor.

It has been quite a roller-coaster ride, but without the fun part.

Sept. 19, 2005 – Washington, 14-13.

The Cowboys lead, 13-0, with 6:01 to play, and the 65,207 in attendance, the largest crowd at Texas Stadium at the time following the 1985 renovations, was enjoying the moment. The Triplets were inducted into the Ring of Honor. The defense was dominating.

Then Santana Moss happened.

Moss caught touchdown passes of 39 and 70 yards in the final 3:46, bringing to light Roy Williams’ deficiencies in coverage. The second touchdown came with 2:35 to play. Oh, by the way, the Cowboys missed the playoffs by a game that year.

Nov. 5, 2006 – Washington, 22-19

Tony Romo’s second start was about to end with a fourth-quarter drive for a game-winning field goal, but Troy Vincent blocked Mike Vanderjagt’s 35-yard try. Sean Taylor scooped up the loose ball and returned it 30 yards. Another 15 yards was added because of a Kyle Kosier facemask penalty.

With no time on the clock, Nick Novak kicked a 47-yarder to beat the Cowboys.

Jan. 6, 2007 – Seattle, 21-20

Tony Romo
AP Photo/John FroschauerTony Romo bobbled the snap for the game-winning field goal versus the Seahawks, preventing Martin Gramatica from making the 19-yard attempt.
This one was the most heartbreaking because it was in the wild-card round of the playoffs. It was also Bill Parcells’ final game as a head coach. The Cowboys maintain to this day that had they won that game, they could have gone to the Super Bowl.

Instead L.P. LaDouceur’s snap for a 19-yard field goal try slipped through Romo’s hands. Conspiracy theorists point to the slippery "K-ball" that was put in play before the snap. Others point to a Jason Witten first down that was overturned by the replay official, which negated the possibility to run the clock out or score a touchdown.

Oct. 12, 2008 – Arizona, 30-24 (OT)

The Cowboys somehow tied this game at the end of regulation on a 52-yard field goal by Nick Folk, but on the opening series of overtime, they lost Tony Romo to a broken pinky finger and punter Mat McBriar to a broken foot. On the play in which McBriar broke his foot, Sean Morey blocked his punt and Monty Beisel fell on the ball for a touchdown. The game started with a special teams touchdown (a 93-yard kick return) for the Cardinals, and ended with one.

Dec. 20, 2008 – Baltimore, 33-24

In what was a struggle for the offense for most of the game, twice the Cowboys pulled to within two points of the Ravens. Terrell Owens made the score 19-17 by scoring with 3:50 to play. Baltimore answered with a 77-yard touchdown run by Willis McGahee. Jason Witten cut the gap again with a TD grab with 1:36 to play. Le'Ron McClain answered with an 80-yard touchdown run.

It was not the way Jerry Jones wanted to see Texas Stadium close.

Sept. 20, 2009 – NY Giants, 33-31

Steve Smith, Mario Manningham
Tim Heitman/US PresswireMario Manningham, left, and Steve Smith, right, combined for 20 catches and 284 yards in the Cowboys Stadium opener.
If Jones didn’t want to see Texas Stadium close that way, he didn’t want to see Cowboys Stadium open this way. Felix Jones gave the Cowboys a 31-30 lead with a touchdown run with 3:40 to play.

Then Eli Manning happened.

Manning completed 7-of-9 passes for 64 yards, helping the Giants overcome a 1st-and-20 situation from their 15 and leading to a 37-yard game-winning field goal by Lawrence Tynes with no time left.

Oct. 4, 2009 – Denver, 17-10

The Cowboys blew a 10-0 lead when Broncos wide receiver caught a 51-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Orton with 1:46 to play. However, Romo had the Cowboys in position to tie the game after a 53-yard completion to Sam Hurd.

At the Denver 2-yard line with nine seconds to play, Romo went to Hurd (unsuccessfully) on back-to-back plays while the wideout was defended by Pro Bowler Champ Bailey.

Cowboys Pro Bowler Jason Witten did not even run a route.

Sept. 12, 2010 – Washington, 13-7

The Cowboys dominated defensively, but were done in by Jason Garrett’s decision to call a play with four seconds left in the first half and a mile away from the Redskins’ end zone. Romo flipped the ball to Tashard Choice, who fumbled while fighting for extra yards. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall scooped up the loose ball and ran it back for a 32-yard touchdown. It was the Redskins' only touchdown of the game.

In position to win the game, Alex Barron happened.

With three seconds left, Romo hit Roy Williams for an apparent game-tying touchdown with the point-after attempt being the difference in a win. Not so fast. Barron, starting in place of an injured Marc Colombo, was called for holding Brian Orakpo on the touchdown pass, wiping out the comeback.

Nov. 25, 2010 – New Orleans, 30-27

The Cowboys were not in the playoff chase, but they were fighting under Garrett, who took over for Wade Phillips as the interim coach. They led 27-23 and were in position to salt the game away as Roy Williams raced down the field toward the Saints end zone. As he switched the ball to his left hand away from a New Orleans defender, he allowed Michael Jenkins to strip it away for the turnover.

Five plays and 89 yards later, Drew Brees hit Lance Moore with the game-winning touchdown pass.

Dec. 25, 2010 – Arizona, 27-26

Stephen McGee was shaping up as the hero, filling in for an injured Jon Kitna. He hit Miles Austin with a 37-yard touchdown pass with 1:41 to play to give the Cowboys the lead. Unfortunately David Buehler missed the PAT, giving Arizona hope.

John Skelton converted a 4th-and-15 with a 26-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald, and Jay Feely won the game with a 48-yard field goal.

Sept. 11, 2011 – NY Jets, 27-24

Mark Brunell, Nick Folk
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireNick Folk kicked the go-ahead 50-yard field goal with 27 seconds left in the 2011 opener.
The Cowboys led, 24-10, two plays into the fourth quarter following a Felix Jones touchdown. They were in position to answer a Jets touchdown with at least a field goal when Romo fumbled while diving to the New York goal line for his first of two fourth-quarter turnovers.

On the Cowboys’ next series, Joe McKnight blocked McBriar’s punt and Isaiah Trufant returned it 18 yards for the tying touchdown.

Late in regulation, Romo was intercepted by Darrelle Revis on a poor throw to Dez Bryant. That was turned into a game-winning field goal by former Cowboy Nick Folk.

Dec. 4, 2011 – Arizona, 19-13 (OT)

Sensing a trend with Arizona here?

Tied at 13-13, Romo put the Cowboys in position to win the game with another Dan Bailey field goal. His 15-yard completion to Bryant had the Cowboys at the Cardinals' 31-yard line. Yet with two timeouts and roughly 25 seconds to go, the Cowboys did not stop the clock until Romo spiked the ball with seven seconds to play.

As Bailey lined up for the game-winner, Garrett called a timeout because the play clock was running out. Bailey’s second attempt fell short, and in overtime the Cowboys would never get the ball.

LaRod Stephens-Howling raced 52 yards on a short flip from Kevin Kolb for the game-winner.

Dec. 11, 2011 – NY Giants, 37-34

Bryant’s 50-yard touchdown pass gave the Cowboys a 34-22 lead with 5:41 to play. All seemed well with the world.

Then Eli Manning happened. Again.

He shredded the Dallas defense on an eight-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a Jake Ballard touchdown catch and then directed New York on a six-play, 56-yard drive that ended in a Brandon Jacobs touchdown. The subsequent two-point conversion gave the Giants a three-point cushion.

During the second drive, Garrett let crucial seconds go off the clock again by failing to call a timeout until 1:00 remained.

Despite all that, two Romo-to-Miles Austin completions had the Cowboys at the New York 29-yard line with six seconds to play.

Before Bailey went in for the game-tying 47-yard try, Giants coach Tom Coughlin called a timeout, negating what turned out to be a good kick. Bailey’s second attempt wasn't close to going through the uprights.

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul pushed between LaDouceur and Montrae Holland and deflected Bailey’s kick.

Jason Garrett's judgment was 50-50

December, 5, 2011
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When Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett elected to have kicker Dan Bailey attempt a 49-yard field goal on Sunday vs. Arizona, the odds were even that the kick was going to be good.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the average conversion on 49-yard field goals this season is 52.2 percent. Not great, but OK.

Since 2003, the Cowboys have made 5-of-10 attempts from 49 yards.

The sequence of events before Bailey's 49-yard field goal clearly bothered him. After the Cowboys spiked the ball with seven seconds left, Bailey lined up and made the 49-yarder but a Dallas timeout forced him to attempt it again.

His second try was wide left. The snap was a little high, but punter/holder Mat McBriar did a nice job of getting the ball down but he spun the ball a little too much causing Bailey to pause on his approach.

"First one felt like I hit it good, obviously it went in," Bailey said. "We called a timeout and that's my job to regroup and go back and make the next one and I didn't do that. No excuses. I should have made it. Just bad circumstances. All I can do is go and kick the next one."

Attempting any kick from 40-49 yards is iffy at times. In 2009, Nick Folk went 5-12 from that area but the next season, David Buehler went 8-11.

You just never know what you're going to get sometimes.

"It didn't feel good," Bailey said of the 49-yard miss. "It didn't go in. It's not what I was looking for. I should have made it and I didn't. You live and you learn."

Last game vs. Bills was wild W for Tony Romo

November, 10, 2011
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IRVING, Texas – Tony Romo had quite an interesting night the last time the Cowboys played the Bills.

Romo threw a career-high five interceptions in that game … and somehow managed to regain his composure to lead the Cowboys to an improbable comeback win.

“I look back now, it seems a little silly some of the stuff I did,” Romo said Thursday. “It is what it is.”

It is a key moment in Romo’s career, as far as his coach is concerned.

Romo, who was in his first full season as a starter, played about as poorly as possible for the first three and a half quarters that Monday night at Ralph Wilson Stadium. He had two picks returned for touchdowns in the first half. His club-record-tying fifth interception came in the fourth quarter, when he also lost a fumble.

But Romo came through when the Cowboys needed him most. He completed 11 of 14 passes for 99 yards on two drives in the final 3:45. Those possessions ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton and a game-winning 53-yard field goal by Nick Folk, who had to make the kick twice because the Bills called timeout just before the first attempt.

“I learned a lot about him that night,” Garrett said. “When it came down to the critical time in the ballgame late when you’ve [thrown five interceptions], it takes a special mentality, a special competitor to come back and keep banging away and give your team a chance to win that game. Tony did that. He didn’t blink. …

“I thought it was a really important night for him. Often times as a quarterback, when it’s easy, it’s easy. Things are rolling, everything’s clicking. But I think you really get measured at that position – and, really, as a football team, as individual players and coaches – when things are hard. How do you respond?”

Romo’s response for the then-undefeated Cowboys gave Jerry Jones more reason to believe he found a franchise quarterback. The Cowboys signed Romo to a six-year, $67 million extension weeks later.

It was also a valuable learning experience for a quarterback early in his tenure as a starter.

“I think you need to understand that, no matter what is going on around you, it’s the next play,” Romo said. “Like we’ve said before, if you’ve thrown an interception or a touchdown you need to come back and be your best on the very next play. That was an example of you can be down, you know you put your team and yourself in a hole, but we had a chance to win late in the game.

“At that time, you need to think you’ve thrown four touchdowns and everything is going your way so that you’re emotionally and mentally renewed to go win a game. That was an important lesson there.”

The other lesson learned by Romo that night: “Don’t throw five interceptions. It makes it harder to win.”

Sun can't stop Cowboys K Dan Bailey

October, 23, 2011
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dan Bailey had no idea he was attempting a career-long 51-yard field goal in the third quarter against St. Louis.

“Honestly, I was kind of more worried about the sun when I went out there,” Bailey said. “The sun was right in my face so I didn’t pay attention to how far it was. I didn’t get to see it go through because I was looking right into the sun.”

Bailey nailed the 51-yarder in addition to a 30-yarder with 15 seconds left in the first half to up the Dallas lead to 17-7 to extend his streak of made field goal tries to 16. It’s the longest streak by a Cowboy kicker since Nick Folk in 2008-09 and the second-longest in team history by a rookie. Richie Cunningham made 18 in a row in 1997.

“I’m not sure of the exact number,” Bailey said. “I’m not superstitious about it. I haven’t paid much attention to it. I just focus on going one for one when I get out there. It’s good to string some together, but I’m not worried too much about it.”

Dan Bailey putting kicking job away

October, 17, 2011
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Dan Bailey continues to keep a stranglehold on the kickers job and his kickoffs were solid in his first outdoor game.

Bailey made field goals of 48, 22 and 26 yards to give him a streak of 14 straight made attempts, which is the second-longest run by a Dallas rookie. Richie Cunningham had 18 in a row in 1997.

His streak is the fifth best overall in team history and he needs two more to tie Nick Folk for fourth. Folk made 16 in a row from 2008-09.

But Bailey’s weakness was supposed to be his kickoffs, which is why the Cowboys elected to keep David Buehler, who missed his third straight game because of a groin injury. Bailey did not have a touchback Sunday, but New England’s best starting position after a kickoff was its 27. Two kickoffs went to the goal line, two went to the 3 and one went to the 6.

Buehler has to get healthy in a hurry or risk losing his spot on the 53-man roster.

5 Wonders: Garrett's future, Dockery's size

September, 6, 2011
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IRVING, Texas -- With the regular season set to open this week, here are five things that have me wondering:

**Much was made of Sean Payton’s move to Westlake as a sign that he will one day be the Cowboys’ head coach. Payton and Jerry Jones have a close relationship, but Payton re-upped with the Saints through 2015 and that should put any of those rumors to bed … for now. Honestly, I think Jones wants Jason Garrett to be his Tom Landry. Not that Garrett will have a 30-year run as the coach, but certainly longer than the 3.6 years Jones’ previous six coaches have had as an average tenure.

** Could the decision to add Derrick Dockery have something to do with his size and who the Cowboys will be playing this year? Dockery is 6-6, 325 pounds and has 111 career starts. Bill Nagy is a seventh-round pick and weighs 299 pounds. In Week 4 the Cowboys will see Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh. In Week 6 they will see Albert Haynesworth and Vince Wilfork. Philadelphia added Cullen Jenkins to its interior. Buffalo has Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams.

** Leon Lett is sticking around the Cowboys for the season. He originally joined the club as part of the team’s minority internship program, but the ex-Cowboy has decided he will not return Louisiana-Monroe as an assistant. Lett does not have an official title but he will continue to work with Brian Baker and the defensive line.

** There are interesting stickers on some players’ lockers inside the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch facility. Players with Pro Bowl experience have logos from the corresponding years near their nameplates, while players who earned game balls last year have football cutouts stuck to their locker. Having made the last seven Pro Bowls they are running out of room on Jason Witten’s locker.

** The Cowboys cut Nick Folk in 2009 after the kicker lost his confidence and form that year in part because of hip surgery. He missed 10 field goals before he was cut but the Cowboys should have put him on injured reserve. Maybe it would have needed some creativity to do so, but Folk put together two of the best seasons a Cowboy kicker has had in 2007-08. They could have given him time to get right for 2010 and competed with David Buehler. He did not set the world on fire with the Jets last year and was not a lock to last the year but it would be a kick in the gut if he were to make a game-tying or winning field goal on Sunday.

Suisham thankful for chance with Steelers

February, 2, 2011
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ARLINGTON, Tex. -- The life of a NFL kicker is a strange one.

You can be a hero or a goat. You can be called washed up or be called reliable.

Shaun Suisham is now considered reliable as he kicks for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But Suisham's 2009 season was filled with issues. He started the season with the Washington Redskins and made 18-of-21 field goals but some critical misses in November and December forced the team to release him. The Cowboys picked him up when Nick Folk was having his stuggles and David Buehler wasn't ready to take over.

Suisham made two-of-three kicks for the Cowboys in the late stages of the regular season, but in the post season he struggled. After making both of his kicks in the playoff victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, Suisham converted just one-of-three field goal tries in the loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Suishman missed from 48 and 49 yards and following the game it was clear the Cowboys were still searching for a kicker.

Suishman was out of a job until November when the Steelers signed him to the active roster and since then he's made 14-of-15 field goals in the regular season and he's made two of three kicks in the postseason.

"You see how often changes are made due to performance or injury every year at the kicking spot," Suishman said. "And you don't carry backups, so when it does happen, obviously people take notice. I don't know if it happens more at the kicking position or if it's just more obvious for the reasons I said. Three months ago, I was out of work. You get used to playing football, that's what you do, and you worked for it every week. When you're out of it, certainly it's uncomfortable when Sundays come around and you're at home."

As for his time with the Cowboys, Suisham said he enjoyed his team with the team, but understood the business side of things.

"I thought I would have played sooner this year than I did, but when you're on the outside looking in, you don't necessarily control that," he said. "But then once the opportunity came up with the Steelers, I was very excited about it because I knew this was a very real possibility."

Are there concerns about David Buehler?

November, 15, 2010
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The Cowboys' 33-20 victory over the Giants on Sunday raised some issues regarding kicker David Buehler.

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ESPN's Trent Dilfer talks about the Cowboys win over the Giants in Jason Garrett's first game as interim coach.

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For the day, Buehler went two-of-three on field goal tries, but he pushed a 34-yarder in the fourth quarter wide right and his point-after attempt in the first quarter was blocked.

Of his seven kickoffs, only one got into the end zone, and it was returned.

Buehler has a strong leg, but either the team wants him to send kickoffs to certain places on the field, instead of booming it into the end zone, or there's a health issue.

It doesn't appear Buehler has any health problems with his leg, feet or hips, but the missed kick and the lack of touchbacks raises some concerns.

On the season, Buehler is 11-of-15 on field goal tries. Prior to the fourth-quarter miss, Buehler had made his last six field goal attempts.

"Mat is telling me to shrug it off," said Buehler, referring to punter and holder Mat McBriar. "But it’s hard and I want to make everything, especially those ones [in the fourth quarter]."

The Cowboys released last year's kicker, Nick Folk, in the offseason, and he's now with the New York Jets and having a wonderful year, expect for Sunday when he missed three field goals in an overtime win vs. Cleveland.

With the Cowboys evaluating their positions, the organization needs to seriously look at the kicker position. This is not to say to get rid of Buehler, but finding a field goal kicker for 2011 has to be on the list of things to do.

David Buehler has confidence

September, 6, 2010
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IRVING -- The season is here, finally, and there are a few new players at some key positions for the Cowboys. One of them is kicker David Buehler.

Forget the fact he's a strong kickoff guy, NFL-high 29 touchbacks last season. Making field goals is a new job in addition to kickoffs. In the preseason, Buehler made 10-of-11 field goal attempts including four in the preseason finale vs. Miami.

Buehler's 31-yarder as time expired gave the Cowboys a 27-25 victory.

"It's good I was able to show [that I could make big kicks]," Buehler said before Monday's practice at Valley Ranch. "I showed them a lot in practice by putting the ball through the uprights."

Now it's for real and on Sunday the Cowboys visit the Washington Redskinsin a NFC East divisional contest. Buehler is replacing Nick Folk, who is kicking for the New York Jets, after he was released toward the end of last season for missing 10 field goals.

But in Folk's first year as the place kicker, 2007, he reached the Pro Bowl making 26-of-31 field goal tries.

It's hard to determine how good Buehler will be in 2010 yet he did play last season and saw how Folk dealt with his struggles.

"I know what to expect on Sundays," said Buehler, who shaved his head to impress his girlfriend. "It does help going though that year, I've already been though so I know what to expect. I've played [on FedEx Field] and I'm going to back to what I know and getting back to that routine."

Still more work for David Buehler

August, 15, 2010
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OXNARD, Calif. -- David Buehler has made six-of-seven field goal attempts this preseason. He's five-for-five from under 40 yards.

But nobody wants to give Buehler the place kickers job. Wade Phillips was happy with Buehler, but wanted to see more from him.

Joe DeCamillis, the special teams coordinator, who is in charge of these things, is also pleased with Buehler.

Like Phillips, DeCamillis isn't ready to commit to Buehler.

"I don't think you can do that yet," DeCamillis said. "You still have to go through the rest of the preseason, we've played like two games, he's like everybody else; A young player and were going to evaluate all the way up until it comes time to make a decison. That's the way you have to handle it in my opinion."

It's hard to simulate game-winning or game-tying situations in practice to see how Buehler handles pressure. In the two preseason games, Buehler hasn't faced any serious pressure but former kicker Nick Folk didn't either.
"I was hoping that situation would occur last week when it was 10-9," DeCamillis said. "It would have been nice to get down in field goal range, but you can't script those. It's going to be something we have to get used to when we get to the season."

Position battle: David Buehler vs. the field

August, 1, 2010
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SAN ANTONIO – There isn’t any competition for David Buehler in training camp.

In his mind, he’s competing against himself on a daily basis. In reality, he’s competing to prevent the Cowboys from picking the best available placekicking option after the preseason.

The Cowboys certainly aren’t reaching for the phone to call John Carney or Matt Stover after watching Buehler kick so far in the Alamodome. He has made 13 of 15 attempts through the regulation uprights, including five kicks from 40-plus yards with a long of 51. His misses have come from 39 and 41 yards.

Buehler, who led the NFL in touchbacks on kickoffs as a rookie last season, has one of the strongest legs in the league. But he wasn’t accurate on long field goals in college, making only six of 11 attempts from 40-plus yards during his USC career.

The Cowboys considered Buehler too erratic to rely on after Nick Folk fell apart last season. They hired ex-Cowboys kicker Chris Boniol to be Buehler’s personal coach in hopes of using only one roster spot on a kicker. It’s a move that appears to be paying off.

“I have a whole different perspective on kicking,” said Buehler, who no longer works in other special teams roles. “Chris has helped me out immensely. He’s taught me things I didn’t even see. It’s another set of eyes every day. I had never had formal coaching. I feel like a whole different kicker than I was last year.”
While cleaning up our Cowboys mailbag, we found two good leftover questions:

Q: What position do you think is the weakest on the Dallas Cowboys? Reza Zadeh (El Paso)

A: We could say left tackle and maybe safety, but kicker is the issue. Last season, the Cowboys made 64.5 percent of their field goal attempts between Nick Folk and Shaun Suisham. That ranked 30th in the NFL, the lowest percentage among playoff teams last year. The NFL average for made field goal attempts last season was 81.3 percent.

Enter David Buehler, who has a strong leg. Accuracy, however, is the issue with him.

In the late stages of the 2009 season, Buehler, a kickoff specialist, struggled to make field goals. He said the big problem was getting his technique down. If the Cowboys can fix that -- they've hired Chris Boniol as the kicking coach -- Buehler should fare well. Buehler seems mentally prepared for the job, but a poor field goal kicker hampers a head coach and offensive coordinator in what they're trying to do with the offense.

Q: Roy or Pat? Who do yo like to see? (Christopher Johnson) Parts Unknown

A: I like when people are from Parts Unknown. There was a pro wrestler I knew growing up in New York who was from Parts Unknown.

So, who's better: Patrick Crayton or Roy Williams? Williams has the more established pedigree: University of Texas, first-round draft pick, Pro Bowler. Crayton: seventh-round pick, skills of a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver, a converted quarterback to wideout.

The reality is Crayton has become one of quarterback Tony Romo's more trusted targets. Last season, Crayton caught 37 passes for 622 yards with five touchdowns. In his time with the Cowboys, Crayton has moved from No. 3 wideout to starter. He's not the fastest guy in the world, but he returned two punts for touchdowns last season and is smart enough to read blocks on returns and make people miss.

Since 2006, when Williams reached the Pro Bowl with Detroit (82 catches, 1,310 yards, seven TDs), Williams' numbers have gone down. Every year. Why? It could be skills, technique, offensive coordinator, quarterback or type of offense. But it's clear the Cowboys didn't trust him last season with the ball. Romo ignored him, and coordinator Jason Garrett forgot about him. Don't believe it? Garrett didn't call Williams' number in the playoff loss to the Vikings last season. He got one ball thrown his way. One.

Jerry Jones said he thinks trust isn't an issue between Williams, Garrett and Romo. But it's evident something is wrong. The coaches have been working with Williams on his technique. They want him coming out of breaks better, and then he will start to get those back shoulder fade routes he likes.

Crayton wants out because the team drafted Dez Bryant in the first round. Williams might be out after this season if he doesn't produce. So you ask me who is better? Take Williams. But Crayton isn't that far behind.
Many of you are concerned about the kicking game.

It's understandable after the Nick Folk (NFL-high 10 missed field goals) meltdown and how Shaun Suisham missed two field goal tries in the postseason that finding a placekicker is a high priority.

David Buehler is going to get a chance to win the job this summer. Connor Hughes is also getting his shot as well, but the job is Buehler's to lose. It should be noted during last week's three-day mandatory minicamp, Buehler didn't attempt a field goal in front of reporters.

That's not to say Buehler didn't try any before we were allowed to watch practice. And we're not saying he didn't attempt any kicks, but it's just interesting.

You could also say the Cowboys might not want to pay a kicker good money and Jerry Jones will tell you that's pretty close to the truth because he pushed out big money (three years close to $6 million with a $2.5 million signing bonus) to Mike Vanderjagt in 2006, and he didn't last the season.

All of this brings us to Matt Stover.

He's a Lake Highlands product, who would love to play for the Cowboys.

Some negatives: Age: he's 42.
He's missed his last three field goal tries from 50 plus yards and in the last three seasons he's 15 of 23 from between 40-49 yards.

Some positives: In the last five years, a span of 74 games, Stover has made 86.4 percent of his field goals including 93.8 percent in the fourth quarter.

If Buehler doesn't work out, Stover, an unrestricted free agent, is on the market and hasn't announced his retirement. He should get a phone call, if Buehler can't make it happen.

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