Sometimes things just make sense, although that doesn’t mean that they totally should. We are in the midst of free agency and so far the Dallas Cowboys have yet to strike a deal with a player who wasn’t on their team last season. Eventually (I promise) that point will come, and when it does there will surely be some special teams players among the yield.
How can we guarantee that the Cowboys will bring in outside special teamers? Unlike every other position in football there are no backup punters or kickers (besides from performing double duty, and no, Jeff Heath does not count). Considering the Cowboys have yet to re-sign punter Bryan Anger (they reportedly won’t) and that they released kicker Greg Zuerlein it stands to reason that there will be some newbies in town soon.
One of those new faces could be an old one for a certain coach.
The Dallas Cowboys could pursue former Los Angeles Rams punter Johnny Hekker
There is no question that the Cowboys have improved on special teams since John Fassel took over as the group’s coordinator in 2020, but the patience of fans wore a little bit thin with his side of the ball in 2021.
Bones is a very aggressive coach and likes to flip games when he can by way of special teams, but sometimes he pushes the line too far like he did back in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers. Beyond that Fassel got on a lot of fans’ nerves by holding on to kicker Greg Zuerlein despite him statistically among the worst extra point kickers in the league.
Zuerlein was one of two former Fassel disciples that have made their way to the Cowboys with the other being long snapper Jake McQuaide who was actually brought back by the team this week.
It doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots that Johnny Hekker, who the Rams are set to release at the start of the league year, could be a primary target for Fassel to fill his punter role. If you think back to the days of August you will remember that there was a lot of chatter then (when it seemed like Hekker could be released before the season) about him winding up in Dallas.
Reunited and it feels so good pic.twitter.com/c7iAvU3FxN— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) August 8, 2021
While it is logical to connect Hekker to Dallas the reality of the situation is that it might not be the most wise move for the Cowboys. For starters, the last kicker of the ball whom Fassel vouched for was the aforementioned Zuerlein. We have discussed many times (including a link to one up above) how Zuerlein hurt the team this past season, you can literally point to a couple of games that were arguably lost specifically by him.
Johnny Hekker is one of the more widely-known punters in the NFL so fans tend to like the idea of him, but as it is often said free agents are free for a reason. Hekker is coming off of a career-low year as far as yards per punt are concerned.
In fact, Hekker is coming off of his two worst seasons ever as far as yards per punt are concerned.
Johnny Hekker, yards per punt:
- 2012: 45.8
- 2013: 46.3
- 2014: 46.5
- 2015: 47.9
- 2016: 47.8
- 2017: 47.9
- 2018: 46.3
- 2019: 47.4
- 2020: 45.6
- 2021: 44.2
To be fair, Hekker had the fewest amount of punts throughout his career this past season despite playing one more game than any other year before (which speaks to how efficient the Los Angeles Rams offense was), but yards per punt is still a pretty telling statistic about how he is in decline. For what it’s worth, he also had the shortest longest punt of his career this past season (59 yards, the previous shortest longest punt of his career was 61 yards in 2014, although 2020 is just behind it at 63 yards).
John Fassel has done a lot of good for the Cowboys, but bringing in players that he vouches for has not exactly been something that he has a great track record with. His opinion is certainly valuable but it might be best for the Cowboys to look elsewhere.
Or, you know, just never punt.