Big Decision: Kicking away from Leon Washington

IRVING - This is not a week for ego. This isn’t a game for Dan Bailey to send his kickoffs down the middle of the field because Jason Garrett and Bruce DeCamillis believe in their coverage unit.

Leon Washington is too dangerous.

Garrett and DeCamillis must do whatever they can to keep the ball out of Washington’s hands on kick and punt returns.

Leon Washington is as dangerous as they come on kick returns.

He has seven career kick returns for touchdowns, and he had an 83-yard return last week in the opener. Twice, he’s returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in one season.

He’s only 5-foot-8, but he’s 210 pounds, which means he’s strong enough to run through arm tackles.

Last season, only 33 of Dan Bailey’s 86 kickoffs (38.4 percent) were touchbacks, which ranked 22nd in the NFL. And only 61 of his kickoffs (70.9 percent) reached the end zone, which was 27th in the NFL.

“He’s a great returner and he’s been a great returner in this league since Day 1. He’s a difference-making player for them," Garrett said. "He’s a guy who can make big plays and he’s done that throughout his career.

“You certainly want to limit his opportunities any way you can. The kicker and punter play a big role in this game because they have to give us favorable cover opportunities. But we have to go cover. There’s no expectation we can just take him out of the game by kicking the ball through.”

Since it’s fairly obvious Bailey isn’t going to have too many touchbacks Sunday, Bailey must put his kickoffs as deep as he can and direct them toward one sideline. Punter Chris Jones did a terrific job of that last week against the Giants.

That will allow the Cowboys to hem Washington in, using the sideline as a boundary, and should help with the coverage units whether it's a punt or a kickoff.