Coming into the season, kicker was just another big question-mark staring this team in the face. Even though there was a full-blown camp battle, no one knew who would win the job. I was ready to give Buehler the benefit of the doubt before TC started, but he was terribly inaccurate in the first few practices. Contrasted to this was fresh-faced rookie Dan Bailey's amazingly high accuracy during the same practices. Eventually they evened out in relative accuracy and several other kickers were brought in. David Buehler went 2 of 3 in the preseason while Dan Bailey went 2 for 2. The Cowboys aired on the side of caution and kept both kickers, Bailey for his promising field goals but questionable kickoffs and Buehler for his promising kickoffs but questionable field goals. Now after 4 games and 1 injury, can we say Dan Bailey can do it all in Dallas?
The first thing everyone wanted to know about Bailey was exactly how good he was at making field goals, were our troubles over? Through 4 weeks his record is 12 of 13, good for 92.3%. Now thats some accurate kickin'! His only miss was a chip shot that might have been the placeholders fault. Even so, 1 out of 13 that should have been easy could certainly be considered a fluke. Dan Bailey might as well be perfect on field goals. Accurate kicking is no joke, had Bailey missed any one of his 6 field goals against Washington, the Cowboys don't win that game. Could Buehler match that performance in a game like that? Not miss a single one? Fun Fact: Did you know that as of week 4, Dan Bailey has kicked more field goals than anyone in the league? Its true!
Alright, so thats the obvious part, Bailey has nearly been money on field goals. Now, what about kickoffs? Buehler has once again been relegated to a kickoff specialist, carried by his commonly referred to 'big leg'. Now if you're going to be a kickoff specialist with the new 35-yard rule, you better be money. The kickoff specialist certainly looks like he's doing a ok job, but nothing special. In two games he's had 10 kickoffs and half of them were touchbacks, with a 24.2 return average against him. That 50% touchback rating comes from a 64.9 average kickoff distance, good for tied at 19th in the league. So, with that big leg of his, his kickoff distance is merely average.
So, lucky only for us, Buehler was injured and sat out the last two games so we got to see what Bailey could do with kickoffs. In the touchback department Bailey is 5 of 13, the 38.5% probably makes it look worse than it is. Kickoffs that were returned against him only went for 22 yards on average. I'd say touchbacks are largely speculative, theres hang time involved and even angling towards the sidelines, but I cannot comment on these factors. The real basis for comparison is the kickoff distance. In the same amount of games, Baileys average distance is 64.8 yards. Bailey is a full 0.1 yards behind Buehler.
So, both kickers have nearly the same average kickoff distance. Buehler, by skill or by luck, happens to have a better TB percentage in less attempts. I think Dan Bailey has done quite adequately in the kickoff game. For Buehler to be worth it he'd either have to be as good as Billy Cundiff or Bailey would have to be as bad as dead last in kickoff length (58 yards).
Even since the start of the season, fans have criticized having two kickers on the team. Now I think there is sufficient evidence to say its probably a waste. I think it would be great to throw all our weight behind our rookie kicker, give him our full confidence, and allow him to develop into a potential pro-bowler. Meanwhile, David Buehler is taking up a roster spot that Bruce Carter is going to need soon.