The official quest for a sixth Lombardi starts once again with a familiar opponent in week one, but this time, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be playing in the Cowboys dojo, AT&T Stadium. This time last year, Dallas played the defending champs very close and nearly defeated them if it weren’t for some miscues on special teams by then starting kicker Greg Zuerlein. Since then, the Cowboys and Zuerlein have gone their separate ways, and even with that departure, Dallas has yet to have really figured out the kicking situation. Although the team did bring back a familiar face in a player whose career has had plenty of mixed results in the NFL.
However, there is one particular area that the Cowboys look to have improved significantly, and that is the return game. In addition to bolstering the return game, Dallas also retained two veterans in the unit as they re-signed special teams ace since 2018, C.J. Goodwin, and 11-year punter Bryan Anger who was selected to his first career Pro Bowl in 2021. Having both Goodwin and Anger back in the fold was a good get by the organization.
There were two acquisitions in particular on special teams that will play a pivotal role for the Dallas Cowboys in 2022. One is bringing back former kicker Brett Maher.
Maher, as we know very well as Cowboy fans, can nail kicks from distances that not many in the league past or present can make. On the other end, the more make-able kicks have been a challenge for him as he has only made 60% from 40-49 yards. Last year in New Orleans, Maher’s overall percentage was just a shade under 89% which is considered to be in the upper echelon in the kicking ranks at the NFL level. However, with a small sample size on extra pints, he made 10 of 12 extra points, which from a percentage stand point of 83.3% is well below the league average. Nonetheless, last year was his best overall season in the NFL which is a promising sign, if he continues to trend in the right direction.
The second and final acquisition along the special teams unit comes with a lot more flare along with some question marks from a non-football perspective, and that player is KaVontae Turpin.
Turpin, who turned 26 just a few short weeks ago, starts his NFL journey this Sunday. As we saw during the preseason, the young man has some juice that not many in the league possess, and that juice is speed and elusiveness. It was on full display against the Los Angeles Chargers where he returned not only a kickoff, but a punt, to the house for six in the same game. He also had a very nice career at TCU where he was electric just about every single time he had the ball in his hands. Now, how does a player with his level of talent essentially just disappear from the mainstream for nearly the past four years?
Unfortunately, he made some very bad decisions and was sentenced to two years probation for an assault charge. Since this incident, it appears that Turpin has turned things around in a positive way and hopefully it was something that never happens again. During those four years away from the limelight, he has been staying in shape and playing competitive football wherever he could. With the USFL MVP award under his belt, he was able to get a shot in the NFL with the Cowboys and so far, things are looking promising.
Knowing how deflating last season’s week one defeat to Brady and the Bucs was for all Cowboys fans, it was even more deflating knowing that if the special teams played up to snuff, that the Cowboys had a very good shot at winning. With Tom Brady at the helm, there is no certainty that it would’ve happened, but it would’ve been nice to have gotten a better performance on special teams, just to make things a little more difficult for the greatest of all time.
With Dallas having brought in Maher and Turpin to the special teams unit, they are looking for a boost from phase of the game. The special teams unit will need to play well in order for the Cowboys to become victorious in week one because rarely does anything but greatness in all three facets of the game result in Tom Brady, and any team he plays for, losing.