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Add not-so-special teams to growing list of Cowboys concerns

Coming off a 26-6 loss to Washington, the Dallas Cowboys enter the postseason with a growing list of concerns. Not only is their offense flat and their defense vulnerable, but their special teams are playing a pretty not-so-special brand of football.

While the issues on offense and defense can be excused as flukes or one-offs, the problems on special teams are more of a trend. Despite employing a Pro Bowl returner, a top-five punter (in average annual salary) and a top-10 kicker (by field goal percentage), the Cowboys special teams have struggled this season.

The unit led by John “Bones” Fassel has given up more high-profile plays than produced, and is coming off arguably their worst effort of the season in the Week 18 loss to Washington.

In the first half alone, Dallas saw their punter botch the snap and turn the ball over inside the red zone, their Pro-Bowl returner fumble a punt in his own red zone and they saw their always-reliable kicker inexplicably miss an extra point.

The specifics of the failure may appear to be outliers, but the overall issues on special teams are a trend. On the season, the Cowboys have a -2.71 EPA on special teams. That tells us cumulatively, Dallas special teams have done more harm than good and the Cowboys reside on the wrong side of average.

John Fassel’s unit has produced a negative EPA in 11 of the Cowboys 17 games this season, indicating they are more liability than asset heading into the postseason.

Luckily, the Cowboys special teams unit has the talent to be elite.

Bryan Anger’s fumble was a true outlier and something fans should not expect to see again anytime soon. Brett Maher has been as reliable as they come. He’s No. 8 in field goal percentage and kicks one of the most accurate deep balls in the NFL. Turpin has game breaking speed that can break free at any time on a punt or on a kick. Even coverage specialist, C.J. Goodwin, is at the top of his profession.

Dallas special teams are talented; they just aren’t playing like it. The Cowboys must get a handle on all three phases of the game before their Monday night showdown against the Buccaneers in the wild-card round. Special teams is no exception.


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