DALLAS — After a long and arduous offseason, training camp has finally arrived for the Dallas Cowboys this week which makes for a good time to check in on the roster.
Specialists are the last group to evaluate, and it is where the Cowboys will perhaps have the most inexperience from a spotlight player.
A similar situation didn't hurt the Cowboys in 2011, the last time Dallas went with an undrafted rookie kicker in Dan Bailey from Oklahoma State. Dallas is going with another Big 12 kicker this time in Texas Tech's Jonathan Garibay, who is best known for his 62-yard walk-off field goal last season.
Garibay missed a total of two kicks last year as he went 15-16 on field goals and 49-50 on extra points. With Greg Zuerlein, a favorite of special teams coach John Fassel, going 29-35 on field goals and 42-48 on extra points, the Cowboys needed to find a solution rather than continue giving chances to the former All-Pro kicker.
Garibay received all of the kicking reps during offseason workouts. However, the Cowboys re-signed Lirim Hajrullahu after mandatory minicamp to give Garibay a challenger throughout training camp.
Hajrullahu was active for the Cowboys in one game last year, the 43-3 thrashing of the Atlanta Falcons in Week 10. The kicker from the ex-Yugoslavia went a perfect 5-5 on extra points as he kicked in place of Zuerlein, who was on the COVID reserve list.
Hajrullahu also has experience kicking in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Toronto Argonauts, and Hamilton Tiger-Cats before going to training camp with the Los Angeles Rams in 2020. The Carolina Panthers had Hajrullahu on their roster in 2020 and again in 2021 after the Cowboys released him. Washington also signed him to their practice squad in December last season.
The Cowboys aren’t completely green in the kicking game as punter Bryan Anger returns after his lone Pro Bowl season with Dallas in 2021. Anger averaged 48.4 yards per punt and recorded his third consecutive season without having a punt blocked.
Dallas re-signed Anger to a three-year, $9 million contract during free agency. Although Anger never worked with Fassel prior to coming to the Cowboys, he nevertheless was on Fassel's radar coming out of Cal in 2012. The Jacksonville Jaguars were more aggressive in their pursuit of Anger at the time as they used a third-round pick on the punter.
After parting ways with long snapper L.P. Ladouceur following the 2020 season, the Cowboys brought in another one of Fassel's pet cats from the Rams in Jake McQuaide. The two-time Pro Bowler actually recorded a tackle for the first time in three years last season. More importantly, McQuaide had 157 clean snaps that allowed the Cowboys to not have any hiccups in the transition phase of the game.
Do you expect the Cowboys to be in better shape with a new kicker in 2022? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.