Commentary

Dan Bailey earned kicking job

Unlike last season, there will be no competition for field goals heading into 2012

Updated: June 8, 2012, 12:38 AM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- There was some uneasiness about who the Dallas Cowboys' field goal kicker would be in 2011. It was mainly a battle between the lovable David Buehler, who could cover a kickoff almost as well as he made field goals, and Dan Bailey, a rookie, who didn't look like he needed a razor to shave just yet.

The Cowboys brought in other veterans, but Bailey and Buehler stuck around. When the 2011 season ended, Buehler was nursing a nasty groin injury that required surgery and Bailey emerged as the kicker of the future.

Now, Bailey has to keep it that way.

[+] EnlargeDan Bailey
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireDan Bailey made 26 consecutive field goals in his rookie season with the Cowboys.

There is no kicking competition on the Cowboys heading into the 2012 season.

Dallas will employ some kickers in training camp just so Bailey doesn't have to use his legs nearly every day. But the good news is reporters won't have to scurry under a goal post or bother kicking coach Chris Boniol to ask how many field goals were made and from what distance.

Bailey is the kicker for the moment.

"I'm just going to try and approach it the same way, and you can't take a day off," Bailey said. "Really, that's the nature of the league really. I'm just going to focus on what I need to do to be 100 percent at my position, whether that's kickoffs, field goals or whatever, just go 1-1 and really try and do that and focus on that and pick up on where I left off last year. That's how life is for a kicker in the NFL."

Last season, Bailey finished tied for third in the NFL with 32 field goals made. He was ninth in field goal percentage (86.5) and tied for third with 37 field goal attempts.

But there were two other notable marks on his record. He made 26 consecutive field goals, tying Boniol for the second-longest streak in franchise history. He also went 5-for-7 on game-tying/winning field goals. Only one other kicker, Denver's Matt Prater, had kicked as many. Prater went 7-for-7.

Bailey's only two misses with the game on the line came against the New York Giants (a block by Jason Pierre-Paul) and at Arizona, the day Jason Garrett iced him, accidentally or not.

Bailey finished the season missing a field goal in three of the final five games.

That shouldn't cause anyone to worry about the field goal kicker.

"It didn't end exactly how I planned," Bailey said. "At the same time, you can learn from that. A lot of things that happened last year, different holders and stuff, it's like water under the bridge now. It's no excuse. I can just learn from all of that stuff and take it into next year and prepare for anything that comes up next year."

Now for the mail.

Q: Will the Cowboys' offensive line really be that much better off? Neither of the free-agent guard signings were impressive, and the center position is not a strength. Can the Cowboys compete at a high level with an O-line that seems to project to be mediocre at best? -- Mark Pachankis (Bossier City, La.)

A: I don't think the offensive line will be mediocre. You have to like what the team did at tackle, moving Tyron Smith to left and Doug Free to right. The interior of the offensive line has improved with the signings of Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau. Phil Costa can get better at center, and will have competition with Kevin Kowalski and some other young linemen.

Q: Yo, Calvin, two questions: 1. Can Jason Garrett coach a championship team? Do the Cowboys win another title before Jerry Jones' window closes? -- Confab Johnson (Titletown, Texas)

A: Yo, Confab, it's hard to answer these questions. Nobody knows whether Garrett can lead a team to a championship, but he's moving the franchise in the right direction with the moves he's made on and off the field. Jones' team has the talent to contend for a Super Bowl title, and from listening to the owner the past two weeks, I believe he thinks his team can win one -- now.

Q: Do you think the Cowboys could have one of the best secondaries in the NFC if healthy? Also, your thoughts on a deep playoff run? Do you know of any autographs sessions scheduled for players? I need a few players' autographs and can't seem to catch it. Thanks. -- Michael Penquite (Dallas)

A: In terms of the NFC, no, I don't believe the Cowboys will have the best secondary in the conference. Do I like the Cowboys' secondary better than the Giants'? Yes. Is it better than the Eagles'? Nope. Redskins'? Yep. Saints'? Yep. 49ers'? Nope. I can go on and on. But the Cowboys did upgrade their secondary with their offseason moves. I predicted a 10-win season for the Cowboys this year, and that means at least one playoff game. Autographs are hard to come by, unless you get to Cowboys Stadium early and stand at the players' entrance or come to training camp and wait along the sidelines.

Q: Do you think Doug Free will be any better at right tackle or will it [be] more of the same penalty fest and missed/bad blocks like last year? I can't imagine him being worse than his illustrious 2011 resume of giving up 10 sacks and being called for six holding and five false start penalties. His response of "whatever" to being moved doesn't comfort me much. -- Michelle Morrison (Kansas City)

A: There are talented players on both sides of defensive lines. Just look at what Philadelphia has with its pass-rushers along the edge. I like the moves the Cowboys made at tackle. Free performed better at right tackle than at left tackle. Tyron Smith is more athletic at left tackle than Free. That's OK because when Free played left tackle, he was the Cowboys' best option at the time.

Q: Any chance Cole Beasley ends up being the wide receiver that everyone expected Danny Coale to be prior to his foot injury? Or is it likely practice squad for the SMU undrafted free agent? -- Joe Owens (Freeport, Texas)

A: It's too early to determine whether Beasley will make the practice squad or even the 53-man roster. Coale has the skills to become a dependable slot receiver. Coale should be ready for training camp, and after about two preseason games, we'll know plenty about the receivers behind Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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