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Cowboys' Special Teams Get It Right

There were a lot of areas that needed improvement in Dallas' win over the Giants, but one part of the team was just fine.

Punt on the ground
Punt on the ground
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Coming out of the pre-season, there were questions about all phases of the game for the Dallas Cowboys. The offense and defense both had issues, particularly along the lines, but in a bit of an unusual situation for the team, the most glaring problems seemed to be with the special teams. Nothing appeared to go well, with a muffed punt, bad coverage all around, and frequent penalties. It looked like Rich Bisaccia was in real trouble with his responsibilities. It was such a concern that of the four players the Cowboys acquired after the final cutdown, two, Edgar Jones and Kyle Bosworth, were purely for their ability to help on special teams, and the third, Caesar Rayford, also had a reputation for being a good ST player, although he was also brought in to help shore up the defensive line.

After the first game of the season, there are still issues to work on for the offense and defense. Meanwhile, the special teams were basically flawless.

Maybe this is proof that Bisaccia was mostly using the pre-season to evaluate what he had (and finding out that he did need that extra help). Or perhaps it just falls under the old "pre-season means diddly" rule. But it is obvious that the concerns about special teams were a bit misplaced.

The numbers were not spectacular, and the biggest play of the night for special teams actually fed off the worst thing anyone did on the unit. Chris Jones had one bad punt that only went for 34 yards. But J.J. Wilcox was engaged with Trumaine McBride, who did not seem aware the ball was nearby, and the ball wound up rebounding off McBride's arm and heading immediately towards DeVonte Holloman, who has the oddest effect on footballs, since they seem to actively seek him out. Dallas got its fifth turnover of the night (on the way to six, in case you were not aware of that little fact) and turned this one into seven points.

Other than that, the special teams may not have done anything spectacular, but they did not make anything even slightly resembling a mistake. Dan Bailey was still splitting 'em, the Giants punt returners were held to a mere four yards a return, and Dwayne Harris was covering with the body of a wide receiver but the spirit of a linebacker, racking up three tackles. He also handled the punt return duties well, getting almost ten yards and making good decisions on when to let the ball go into the end zone. He didn't get many opportunities, since giving up six turnovers (six, mind you) did limit the number of times New York was able to punt the ball away to only three.

That is the solid, dependable play you want on ST. Whether going by the eyeball test or PFF numbers, it was one of the better performances on opening weekend. This was with Danny McCray, special team ace, sidelined with injury. And it was easily the most reliable part of the Cowboys against the Giants. This is what you want, since, as the muff demonstrated, breakdowns on special teams tend to be big impact things, and you want them going in your favor. For the first game at least, it was all good for them in Dallas.


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