Cowboys Training Camp Battles, Part VIII: David Buehler vs. Himself
In the first seven parts of my Training Camp Battles Series, I analyzed the future of the nickel linebacker, defensive end, free safety, left tackle, wide receiver, tight end, and cornerback positions.
Today, I will analyze the oft-overlooked, yet extremely critical kicker position. A couple years ago, I conducted a study on the importance of kickers. I found that the difference between a 70 percent kicker and a 90 percent kicker is about one extra win per year–a pretty big deal in the context of a 16-game season.
Thus, it is imperative for the Cowboys to secure a reliable kicker, whether it David Buehler or somebody else. The inherent lack of season-to-season stability at the position could mean Buehler is the right guy for the job.
Recently, however, Peter King reported the organization seems “worried, really worried” about the kicker position. Veterans John Carney and Matt Stover are still free agents. King believes the ‘Boys will sign one of them by Week Three of the preseason if Buehler doesn’t show he can handle all kicking duties.
As of now, however, Buehler’s only true competition is himself.
I’ve never really scouted a kicker, but Buehler must be the most athletic one in NFL history. He ran a 4.57 forty-yard dash at 6’2”, 222 pounds and performed 25 reps on the bench press. That would be an impressive weight/strength/speed combination for a running back, much less a kicker.
None of that really matters if Buehler is to be the Cowboys’ placekicker, of course. Obviously he has a ton of leg, leading the NFL in touchbacks as a rookie. His issue will be accuracy (as is the case with just about every NFL kicker).
Perhaps being an athlete will help Buehler in his quest for accuracy. Kicking is as much (or perhaps more) mental as it is physical, and Buehler, as an athlete, has the confidence and mindset to rebound from a miss. Anyone can get on a roll, but the best kickers don’t allow previous misses to negatively impact future kicks.
Pros/Cons of Using Buehler at Placekicker. . .
The biggest advantage to using Buehler for all kicking duties is the “extra” roster spot that would be saved. Buehler will make the squad as a kickoff specialist whether he tanks field goals or not, so the addition of another kicker would mean the disappearance of a positional player.
On the bright side, Buehler can again participate on the coverage units if he is retained solely as a kickoff specialist. In this way, Dallas wouldn’t be losing a full roster spot–more like half of one.
I predicted Buehler would win all kicking duties in my last 53-man roster projection. I am not as confident in him now as I was then, however. He is certainly on a short leash. If he performs perfectly in preseason, he should retain his job. The first sign of trouble in either the preseason or start of the regular season, though, would likely result in the Cowboys signing a veteran and moving Buehler back to kickoff specialist/special teams ace.