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Cowboys rank a surprising fifth overall in 2017 special teams

It was a strange year for the Cowboys special teams.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys special teams were a study in contrasts this season. On the one hand, we recall that the Cowboys stud kicker, Dan Bailey, suddenly lost his way after he tried to return from a groin injury. Bailey was Mr. Automatic, having never missed an extra point in his career and was always battling for the all-time FG percentage lead with Justin Tucker. Down the stretch, Bailey missed a couple of extra points and had a career-low FG percentage for the season.

On the other hand, punter Chris Jones and kick returner Ryan Switzer turned in very good seasons, with Switzer ending up as the rookie kick returner on the Pro Football Writer’s all-star team. Jones did his usual stellar job of directional kicking and generally keeping the opposition from returning his punts. He’s also pretty good with a fake.

Rick Gosselin does an annual ranking of special teams, and even though the Cowboys season was a little uneven because of Bailey’s struggles, overall the Cowboys came in fifth in the NFL. Let’s dive into the rankings a bit.

Switzer was certainly a benefit to the special teams as the Cowboys ranked third in kickoff return yards at 24.8. Another area that the Cowboys excelled at was punt coverage, where they were the best in the league, allowing a paltry 4.71 yards per return. Some of the credit goes to Chris Jones’ superb situational punting, but also credit the assortment of gunners and coverage guys led by Kavon Frazier, who made some outstanding special teams plays on the year.

Jones was also second in the league in dropping punts inside the 20-yard line. The Cowboys ranked fourth in a stat that no one really thinks about, opponent’s FG percentage. Maybe they just played against a lot of lousy kickers. The Cowboys were among 15 teams that didn’t allow any special teams points on the season. They also didn’t allow any blocked kicks on the season. The Cowboys tied for second in the league with three takeaways on special teams.

Even though we think a lot about Dan Bailey’s struggles on special teams this season, overall the Cowboys had a very good year. Chris Jones was excellent, Ryan Switzer showed a lot of promise, coverage guys like Kavon Frazier, Byron Jones and others make it a formidable unit. Also, we’d be negligent if we also didn’t point out the unbelievable job long snapper L.P. Ladouceur does every year.

One caveat, though, special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for Oakland. Can the Cowboys keep up the good work? And will Dan Bailey return to form in 2018?

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