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Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Cowboys kicking competition

By Dan Graziano

Cowboys.com continues its "Roster Rundown" with a look at the quirky and maddening position of place-kicker. Their thought is that the team gave Kris Brown that two-year deal late last year because it believes David Buehler needs competition in order to improve. And this may be the case. Of course, if it doesn't work, there remains a chance that Brown ends up being the kicker.

Both analysts on this post, Rob Phillips and Nick Eatman, seem to agree that, since Brown isn't exactly the second coming of Morten Andersen, the choice between the kickers could come down to kickoffs. And there, especially with the new rule moving kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35, the edge likely goes to Buehler. Coaches get downright religious about field position, and all things being equal they're likely to favor the guy who can kick the ball through the back of the end zone after a score and keep it out of the hands of the return team.

That's never been the problem with Buehler, of course. The problem with Buehler is that he turns mid-range field goals and extra points into nailbiting thrillers. So if the Cowboys are going to start 1-7 again and never be in the playoff race, they can afford to give their young kicker more time to develop. But if they have hopes of returning to 2009 contender form, they're going to have to see some improvement in his reliability. As Phillips wrote here, "Had the Cowboys been in a playoff race last year, they might have been forced to sign a veteran like Brown sooner."

It's hard to remember back to the early part of last season, when we still thought the Cowboys had a chance to be good. But if you do, you'll remember that Buehler was a big-time question mark -- the kind of thing people thought might sink their season once it got into crunch time. It never did, but that doesn't mean the issue isn't still there. With Brown on the roster, Buehler would be smart to spend his lockout downtime practicing on the goalposts at a local high school field near his house or something.