I know what you’re probably thinking — a kicker’s name headlining the front page of BTB during the offseason? With all of the big-game names that make their living at the Star, from charismatic personalities like Dak Prescott, to box-office attractions like Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper, to the larger-than-life family who keeps the franchise in tact — it’s a kicker who owns some spotlight bragging rights as we head into training camp?
Greg Zuerlein is receiving his slice of the limelight from Dallas’ hearty publicity pie. And rightfully so: the 33-year-old Missouri Western product supplied Dallas with an upgrade in the kicking game immediately upon his arrival in 2020.
After substantiating eight successful campaigns with the Rams, which included nabbing a Pro Bowl honor in 2017, and sporting five seasons of a plus-80% mark on field goal tries, Zuerlein signed with Dallas on a three-year deal worth $7.5 million in 2020.
He kick-started his tenure with the ‘Boys by etching his name into NFL history books in Week One. He rattled off the first ever opening kick at Sofi Stadium, the new home of his former Los Angeles team.
More history would follow shortly in Week Two. After Dallas fell behind Atlanta 29-10 at the half, it was Zuerlein who served as a major catalyst to complete an epic comeback for the squad, firing a perfectly-placed onside kick to return the pigskin back to his team, before converting on a game-winning 46-yarder to end the affair.
Zuerlein would attempt a league-leading 41 field goal attempts (it was a career-high for him as well) throughout the course of the 2020 season, and his 34 makes (82.9%) placed him among the top-10 of place-kickers with at least 30 tries.
In fact, he was an impressive 31 of 32 on kicks from inside 50 yards, and netted 33 of 36 extra points. He complemented those numbers by posting eight games with a perfect mark on two or more attempts.
This year, Zuerlein is listed as the NFL’s fourth-rated kicker by Pro Football Network, behind Kansas City’s Harrison Butker, Baltimore’s Justin Tucker and Tampa Bay’s Ryan Succop.
The site’s analysts are fully confident that he’ll continue his accurate tear on three-point tries, while putting up boatloads of XP attempts as Dallas’ offense morphs into full form behind a healthy Dak Prescott. And that spells even more trouble for opposing defenses, who will have to factor Zuerlein into their gameplans as they strive to prevent not only touchdowns, but drives that produce field position in his leg territory as well.
The one weak spot in his game popped up last year and that was deep precision. Zuerlein was a lowly three of nine on tries from over 50 yards, so filling that hole in his arsenal will be vitally important to his improvement in 2021.
Nonetheless, Zuerlein is a critical piece to Dallas’ offense, and though his play likely won’t cause the biggest stir in comparison to his comrades, his leg is invaluably important to their weekly contests.