Buehler, Bailey in spirited fight for kicker's job

Posted Sunday, Jul. 31, 2011  comments  Print Reprints
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SAN ANTONIO -- David Buehler? Dan Bailey? Both kickers?

That's what the Dallas Cowboys have to decide in one of the most interesting training camp competitions. So what else is new?

The Cowboys have had more kickers than they can count. Or sometimes count on.

"I always tell kickers: You don't want people on your back," Cowboys kicking coach Chris Boniol said, "and there's only way to get them off, and that's to go make your kicks."

Since Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989, the Cowboys have employed 18 kickers. Jones thought he had a long-term solution by signing free agent Mike Vanderjagt to a three-year, $5.4 million deal in 2006. Vanderjagt didn't last the season. So the Cowboys went a different route, drafting Nick Folk in the sixth round in 2007. Folk made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, but Dallas released him in the middle of the '09 season.

Though Jones said Saturday the Cowboys could employ two kickers this season, as they did in 2009, it's more likely the job is Buehler's or Bailey's.

"The whole idea throughout our football team is to create competition," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "We want to do that at every spot on our team, so we're certainly doing that in the kicking game."

Bailey, the Lou Groza Award winner as the nation's best collegiate kicker last season, was perfect the first three days. He's now 17 for 19 after missing from 48 and 43 on Sunday, though he did make a hurry-up, 52-yarder in the 2-minute drill.

"I'm going to come in and do the best I can do, and if it's not enough, it's not enough," said Bailey, an Oklahoma State product. "All I can do is control what I can on the field and go from there."

Buehler is among the league's best at touchbacks, having booted 51 in his two seasons. But kickoffs have been moved from the 30- to the 35-yard line this season, making touchbacks easier.

His goal is to win both jobs.

"I went through a rollercoaster last year, and I feel like it made me stronger as a person and as a kicker," Buehler said. "I learned a lot. I want the field-goal job. I'm fighting my butt off to get it."

What edge he has in experience, Buehler doesn't have in the numbers so far.

Buehler made only 2 of 5 kicks Sunday, though one was a hurry-up from 58 yards, and he now is 12 of 20. He has been wide left, wide right and short from 35, 38, 41, 44, 34, 58, 38 and 44.

Buehler didn't exactly receive a vote of confidence from Jones, who said, "I think he can win the job." Despite that, it's Buehler's job to lose.

"Dan's a great kicker," Buehler said. "I knew when he got signed he was going to be stiff competition. Competition brings the best out of you, and it forces you to put them through the pipes.

"He's doing a good job. ...I just have to go out there and prove I can get the job done."

Buehler struggled last season as the team's placekicker. He was only 24 of 32 on field goals and missed two extra points. The good news: He was 8 of 11 from 40-49 yards, 4 of 6 from 50 and beyond and 5 of 8 in the final two minutes of a half.

"David missed some kicks he should have made, but he made some that were huge," Boniol said. "...It was a hard year from a critique standpoint on him last year, but something definitely to build on."

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760

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