Everybody wants to talk about the Dallas Cowboys‘ high flying offense or the historically bad defense. The key to the 2014 NFL season will be an often overlooked part of football in the special teams. It could be the missing link to improvement in the other two phases as well the difference in finally making the playoffs.
Many people sweep special teams under the rug, reserving it for subpar athletes who can’t be contributors elsewhere. Nothing could be further from the truth. Dallas has two of the most productive players in the league at their respective roles.
Dan Bailey was the the fourth-ranked kicker in terms of accuracy. That included hitting all ten of his chance from 40-49 yards and connecting on six field goals over 50 yards.
Dwayne Harris ranked eighth in the league in kickoff return yardage and second in the league behind Cordarrelle Patterson with 30.6 yards per attempt. He also pitched in a punt return touchdown and made himself known for jetting down the field on kick coverage by notching nine solo tackles as well.
Unfortunately, for the things those two did well, punter Chris Jones was generally mediocre. He was middle of the pack in overall league rankings and slipped to 20th in the all important net yardage category at 39.1.
It’s clear that these guys aren’t doing their jobs alone, but these will be the guys the fans remember for their successes and failures.
Commentators often look to special teams for something called “hidden yardage.” This is a huge stat for teams that have poor offensive production in some games. Great returners like DeSean Jackson and Devin Hester can be the difference in winning and losing games with their kick and punt return magic.
This phase of the game is very important for the Cowboys this season. If Bailey and Jones do their jobs it will mean short fields for the offense and long fields for the defense to work with. Likewise, if Harris can bust some long runs it can be energizing for the team and rally the crowd.
Outstanding contributors on special teams are vital for successful teams. If the Cowboys can continue to get production from these guys as well as other young up-and-comers, then they can take the pressure off of the offense and defense. They can also become a well-rounded team that could finally push itself back into the playoffs.