Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Largely unnoticed even among their own fanbase, the Cowboys have quietly been putting together the best punting and kickoff coverage performance in the league so far this season. Unfortunately, their own return game is nowhere close to the effectiveness of their coverage game.
One of the many stats that has gone quietly unnoticed so far this season is the effectiveness of the Cowboys punting and kickoff coverage units.
On ten kickoffs in four weeks, the Cowboys have allowed an excellent 18.5 yards per kickoff return, the best value in the league. The Cowboys opponents would have been better advised to take a knee on every kickoff - that would have netted them 20 yards instead of the 18.5 yards they ended up with.
On 14 punts, the Cowboys have held the returning team to an average of only 5.0 yards per punt return, the second best value in the league. The longest punt return the Cowboys have allowed was for a miserly nine yards, best in the league.
Of course, there's also the fact that the Cowboys are one of only six teams so far to have a punt blocked; a missed assignment by Dan Connor against the Seahawks led to a blocked punt and a touchdown, so there's always that.
One of the reasons for the relative success of the punting unit so far is that the Cowboys' punts, on average, didn't have to travel very far: Despite a punting average of only 44.4 yards which ranks the Cowboys 24th in the league, the Cowboys placed seven of their 14 punts (50%) inside the 20-yard line. That 50% "inside-the-20" rate is the sixth best rate in the league.
On kickoffs, the Cowboys didn't have the advantage of kicking from short fields. Also, for all his success as a place kicker, the Cowboys don't necessarily have the biggest leg in the business with Dan Bailey. Bailey only had four touchbacks on 16 kickoffs for a 25% touchback percentage, which ranks him 31st among 33 qualifying kickoff specialists. Interestingly, the Giants' Lawrence Tynes (23.1%) and the Eagles' Alex Henery (22.2) are the only kickers ranked below Bailey. This makes the Cowboys' league-leading 18.5 yards allowed on kickoff returns even more impressive, as it is the result of particularly effective kickoff coverage and not just the product of a strong leg.
Unfortunately, what seems to be working in the punting and kickoff coverage game is not yet working in the Cowboys' own return game. Here, the Cowboys appear to be running to stand still: The Cowboys are ranked 28th on punt returns and 25th on kickoff returns after four weeks.
Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis has shown that his teams can kick the ball. Now he needs to figure out how his units can be more effective at returning the ball.