Could Chris Jones, and not Brett Maher, be the leg in jeopardy of not making the Cowboys roster?

Dallas Cowboys v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

It’s open competition for the specialists in Cowboys camp.

The Dallas Cowboys have kicker problems.

Ever since the release of Dan Bailey, Cowboys fans have felt a little uneasy whenever Brett Maher trots onto the field. The former CFL kicker surprised everyone by winning the kicker job last September, and it’s been a mixed bag to say the least. Sure, Maher’s got the leg, last year he wasted no time taking over first and second place for the longest kick in Cowboys history. Interestingly, he jumped the two kickers that beat him out for a job when he entered the league in 2013.

It wouldn’t surprise if he ended up breaking Matt Prater’s NFL’s record for longest kick of 64 yards.

The leg strength of Maher isn’t the issue, but rather his accuracy as he is having problems hitting the easy ones. For some reason, as Andrew Gutierrez on Twitter so elegantly put it - the Maheratti doesn’t go under 50. That’s clever, but there’s also a little truth to it. Maher has knocked down 6/7 kicks of 50+ yards or more (86%), but he drops down to 13/19 (68%) on kicks less than 50 yards. That’s very odd. Kickers are supposed to become less accurate the farther out they are, but not the Maheratti.

It’s very concerning for Cowboys fans to realize that a game-winning drive could end up not being game-winning if their kicker launches a shankopotamus on what many would expect to be a gimme field goal. And as we’ve seen with Maher so far this summer - nothing is a gimme.

The frustrating part is that the coaching staff isn’t bringing in an outside kicker to give Maher any competition. Most notably, veteran kicker Matt Bryant remains unsigned. The 44-year old former Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl kicker injured his hamstring last year, but he’s coming off a season where he made 20 of 21 kicks, including a perfect 16/16 for kicks under 50 yards. Why wouldn’t the Cowboys bring him in?

Outside of Bryant, it’s slim pickings around the leagues as the Minnesota Vikings were forced to trade for Baltimore Ravens backup Kaare Vedvik, costing them a fifth-round pick in next year’s draft. It appears the Vikings have their own reservations about Bailey after extending him to a one-year deal this offseason.

So, while other teams are doing stuff to address their kicker situation, the Cowboys just sit on their hands as they sell all of us on the idea they are perfectly content with what they have. But could one of the reasons for this calmness be because they already have competition for Maher in the form of backup punter Kasey Redfern?

Redfern has essentially been an afterthought because nobody believes he’s going to replace current punter Chris “Puntisher” Jones for his job. But there’s a little twist that could be rather interesting going forward. Redfern also pulls double-duty as a kicker. Mickey Spagnola had this to say about the Cowboys other “kicker” back in June:

During special team drills, he drilled all five of his field-goal attempts and then, with the first and second teams participating in play-it-out sessions, the offense needing at least a field goal to tie the score in the final 1:24, the first-year kicker with two seconds left made his 38-yard attempt and then on a fourth-and-1 with no timeouts left with the second offense, nailed a 53-yarder.

Guess we should pay attention since this time last year we basically ignored backup kicker Brett Maher, only for him to win the job over Dan Bailey.

Redfern has had his own consistency issues in camp, but could there be a silver lining within his misses?

Redfern is very raw as a kicker, but what if he starts dialing in his short game? Could he be the preferred choice for shorter kicks and keep Maher around for the big ones? The idea to keep two kickers on this roster seems absurd, but that’s exactly what they did in 2009 when they kept David Buehler around despite already having Nick Folk. Buehler had the big leg and was used for kickoffs and longer field goals.

As nice of a luxury as that would be, the Cowboys don’t have the roster space to keep two kickers, that is unless one of them was also moonlighting as the team’s punter. Which brings us to the question - how’s Chris Jones doing?

With Maher and Redfern both able to punt, they are not only competing with each other, but they could put a little pressure on Jones as well. It may seem weird to think Jones’ job is even up for grabs after a very strong season just a couple years ago. In 2017, Jones finished first in the league in percentage of punts inside the 20-yard line as well as netting the lowest return average. However, last season - his numbers dipped considerably.

And on Saturday, he only had one punt attempt, and it didn’t go very far.

Redfern, on the other hand - had a better showing. He had punts of 48, 46, and then boomed a 62-yarder before bouncing into the end zone.

This isn’t to say Redfern is going to replace Jones as the team’s punter, but the team is certainly giving him chances. The same chances Maher got with field goals last year. What could be going on though is the team has three legs competing for two jobs. It’s still early and things can change, but as we’ve learned plenty from this organization recently - what someone did a couple years ago doesn’t mean a whole lot if they’re not what’s best for the team now. Football is a meritocracy...especially for kickers.