There are a lot of areas where we all want to see the Dallas Cowboys improve in 2021, and to be fair, they started fixing some of those areas last season. At this time a year ago, the Cowboys were coming off of a completely disastrous performance by the special teams in 2019. Then-new hire John Fassel seemed to be a step in the right direction, and while it was a bit of a bumpy start, things ultimately stabilized in the third phase of the game for America’s Team.
Ideally improvement will continue this season as familiarity and continuity are all at a higher rate. While that is true in an overall sense there are still always changes happening, particularly within the team’s roster, and there could be a notable one happening rather soon.
Bryan Anger could be the favorite to win the starting punting job
One of the places where the Cowboys refused change for far too long was at the punting position. Chris Jones was once an underrated player at his spot, a hard thing to achieve while having a star on your helmet, but over the last few seasons started to regress and unfortunately the team tolerated it without bringing in competition.
Last season Jones dealt with injury and when the team needed another booter on fourth downs they turned to Hunter Niswander who was fine over eight games. The job appeared to be his to lose until the Cowboys signed veteran Bryan Anger in early April. While things will ultimately be figured out under the bright sun of training camp, it does appear as if Anger does have the inside track towards earning the full-time gig.
Cowboys ST coordinator John Fassel said he considers Bryan Anger "a top-flight guy" and the "leader" to be team's punter in 2021. Hunter Niswander still developing and will compete. Niswander not here in spring for personal family reasons, COVID-19 precaution.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) June 4, 2021
There is no question that Anger has experience on Niswander as the latter has only ever played eight games in the NFL, all with the Dallas Cowboys last season. Anger was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2012 and since then has bounced around with stints in both Tampa Bay and Houston before landing in Dallas.
The sample size is small, but for what it’s worth Niswander had Anger beat in 2020 in terms of yards per punt (47.2 against 46.4, they both easily beat Chris Jones’ 42.6 last season).
In looking at Anger’s career to Niswander’s (again there isn’t a lot for the latter) the only thing that Anger has done that Niswander hasn’t is handle kickoffs at times, very infrequently it should be noted.
This is an idea that we have touched on before here at BTB although the discussion at the time centered around Dan Bailey. I am personally a fan of conserving a kicker’s energy towards only kicks that result in points. Could the Cowboys be potentially leaning in that direction with regards to Greg Zuerlein? In two kickoffs last season, Anger averaged 63 average yards per attempt while Zuerlein averaged 62.1 on 60 attempts (imagine conserving 60 kicks a year off of Zuerlein, though!).
Ultimately, the Cowboys might just feel more comfortable with Anger than they do Niswander which makes sense given that Niswander wasn’t on the team for long last year. We will have our answer soon enough when training camp arrives.