Sports Outside the Beltway

Dallas Cowboys Kicking Woes Continue

Len Pasquarelli had a prescient piece this morning about the continuing kicking woes of the Dallas Cowboys.

No one in Dallas will ever admit it publicly, but a lot of people in the Cowboys’ front office trace the lingering problems in the team’s kicking game to early in the spring, when the team felt it had a contract agreement with unrestricted free agent Matt Bryant of Tampa Bay, and then the fifth-year veteran reneged on it to re-sign with the Bucs.

The feeling was that Bryant, coming off a resurgent season in which he converted 21 of 25 field goal attempts, would provide stability on placements and kickoffs. Cowboys’ officials felt Bryant was perhaps ready to emerge as a very dependable kicker and that, while he would cost the team more than it had invested on kickers in recent years, he still wouldn’t break the bank.

But when the Cowboys didn’t close the deal with Bryant, things spun out of control, as they often have with the Dallas kicking game of late. The Cowboys didn’t jump into the Adam Vinatieri or Ryan Longwell pursuits, and ended up signing Mike Vanderjagt, the most accurate field goal kicker in league history, but a guy who hasn’t handled kickoffs for three years and who has been a lightning rod of sorts. And they did something owner Jerry Jones has never done, shell out big money, including a $2.5 million signing bonus, for a kicker.

And how has that worked out? Well, Vanderjagt missed considerable time in camp and preseason with a groin injury, probably won’t be able to kick off this year, and didn’t even make the trip to Jacksonville for Sunday’s opener. That means Dallas has to carry an additional player to handle kickoffs, Shaun Suisham, something that coach Bill Parcells desperately wanted to avoid.

The Cowboys’ roster now includes four players — two kickers, a punter and a deep snapper — who contribute to no positions other than their special teams spots. And that’s got to be driving Parcells absolutely crazy.

By the way, people who would know insist that, at no time in camp was Vanderjagt ever in anything resembling a solid kicking rhythm — he struggled even in the daily special teams sessions — and fear his slump could continue into the season.

Considering how bad Suisham was tonight, Vanderjagt had better heal fast. I expect Dallas to be auditioning other kickers by morning.

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