American Football

Cowboys mailbag: Concerns with kicker and offensive line


Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

People have questions about the Cowboys in the playoffs, and we strive to provide answers.

Every week, we will be taking questions on Twitter about the upcoming Dallas Cowboys game and other questions surrounding the team. So let’s get right into it.

@JossyFarries: If Jason Peters doesn’t play, how do we line up on the O-Line?

Brandon: The lineup last week was going to be Jason Peters, Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, and Tyron Smith. Due to Peters’ hip injury, the lineup never made it past halftime. However, I believe the best o-line out there was the one that came after. The idea of having three future Hall of Fame players on one offensive line was greater on paper. Peters has reached an age where he can’t play a complete game and is better in spot duty. Connor McGovern played well against the Buccaneers and is more comfortable playing left guard than Tyler Smith. Even with the Cowboys playing Nick Bosa this weekend, I trust Tyler Smith at left tackle to take care of him because he’s more athletic than Peters and can keep up with Bosa for an entire game.

Mike: At this stage we’ve seen how this line looks going forward. Tyler Smith actually looks better at left tackle than he does at left guard so that’s a plus to take away from this along with Tyron Smith at right tackle looking much more comfortable. What the Peters injury does is take away the 6-OL formation with Connor McGovern at fullback which is a shame. But the scary part in all this with all the injuries that have occurred on the offensive line now means the next guy up is Josh Ball. We are literally one man away from him taking significant snaps and that’s my biggest fear.

@RichardPeck: Do we make a change at kicker, or do we stick with what we got and put it down to an off night?

Brandon: Brett Maher has earned the right to keep being the kicker for the Cowboys. As Dak Prescott mentioned in his post-game interview, everyone has bad games. Even Prescott admitted to playing poorly the week before in Washington and was able to come back. It’s too late in the season to find a good kicker off the streets. The Cowboys signed Tristan Vizcaino to their practice squad who was with Dallas in 2020 and has bounced around the league. He also has experience kicking in San Francisco, which will be interesting to see what happens with the Cowboys’ practice squad elevations. If they had brought him up, someone on defense like Neville Gallimore or Markquese Bell would have been inactive. The Cowboys can’t afford to lose defensive depth for a game like this. If Maher struggles, they will be going for it on fourth down and go for two-point conversions.

Mike: We’ve had the reverse of this question before with “what’s made Brett Maher suddenly be so good as a kicker?” So my answer to that is the same when it goes awry for a kicker. For a kicker to fail at his job isn’t that he’s changing his kicking style or doing something different, it’s the loss of focus and confidence that suddenly changes. Last week some people talk of the field conditions being an issue, this very well could factor in those misses. But we have to at this point give Maher the benefit of the doubt that it was a bad day at the office. The signing of a backup kickers isn’t to place pressure on Maher or saying that the coaches want to move on now, it is in case this trend continues. If Maher struggles again, this team has an insurance policy behind Maher, so any games after this week has a guy ready to help out if the nightmare scenario should present itself.

@Danconner1985: Stick or twist on FA’s this offseason? Who do we keep, who do we let go?

Brandon: Depending on how deep in the playoffs the Cowboys go, many free agents will add zeros to their paychecks in 2023. but it’s not impossible to bring many of the key players back. After the 2020 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to “run it back,” with most of their free agents re-signing with the team. If the Cowboys wanted to, they could re-sign players like Leighton Vander Esch, Tony Pollard, Brett Maher, and Johnathan Hankins and make another Lombardi Trophy run. However, this is an opportunity for players to earn generational wealth if the opportunity is there. I think it’s always been between Dalton Schultz and Pollard, with the other one leaving in free agency. Depending on where Dan Quinn goes, I think that’s where Donovan Wilson ends up since Quinn is Wilson’s biggest champion. If Quinn stays in Dallas, maybe some defensive guys will stay because they like the system and don’t want to learn anything new. It will be an exciting offseason for sure.

Mike: Well I said it right after the win at Tampa Bay, Leighton Vander Esch needs top priority. Seeing this team run stopping without him, then to see the results when he’s back on the field, shows the level of importance he plays on this defense. As much as I would like Dalton Schultz to stay, that’s not going to happen, so be prepared to see him move in the offseason. We need Terence Steele back, hopefully his injury would clear him for around training camp. People talk a lot on T.Y. Hilton returning but I don’t see it, he may wait around until the last quarter of the season again and pick a team that’s playing confidently and go there. But to make a list in order of the rest of the players that deserve to stay would be Tony Pollard, Conner McGovern, Donovan Wilson, Johnathan Hankins, Brett Maher and finally Anthony Brown. If they feel they can move on from Brown, start watching tape on cornerbacks in this years NFL Draft, which myself and Brandon will be talking a lot about on the mailbag after the playoffs.

Be sure to check @kenfigkowboy and @brandoniswrite on Twitter for the weekly post, asking you for your questions for the weekly mailbag

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