Former USC kicker David Buehler led the league in touchbacks his rookie season with 29. He also participated on the punt team and the kick return unit. He's a fearless player who lives for open-field tackles, but I'm not sure how that translates to calmly nailing a field goal to win a game.
For whatever reason, the Cowboys are convinced that Buehler's ready to take over after watching Nick Folk and Shaun Suisham make a mess of things last season. Dallas missed a league-leading 11 field goals (tied with Houston) in 2009. And when it gave Buehler a chance to wrest the job from Folk in practice, he was understandably all over the map. Everyone wants to talk about the safety and left tackle spots, but I think the Cowboys could be leaving themselves exposed at place-kicker.
Buehler's a tremendous weapon as a kickoff specialist, but asking him to attempt clutch field goals is a different thing. In March, former Cowboys kicker Chris Boniol joined the coaching staff to work with Buehler on a "part-time" basis. The two have spent countless hours together at Valley Ranch focusing on technique. He's convinced Buehler that he can dial it down a bit with his big leg in hopes of finding accuracy.
"He can do it," Boniol told me after Monday's organized team activities session. "But he has to prove it day in and day out. There are a lot of guys who can do it. David can't aim one direction and kick the hell out of the ball like he does on kickoffs. We've worked on how to control his power and his ball flight."
I feel like Boniol is a little more realistic about Buehler's future than owner Jerry Jones and coach Wade Phillips. For some reason, Jones and Phillips have basically handed Buehler the job on a wing and a prayer. I think he has a ton of potential, but the Cowboys would've been wise to sign a veteran just in case Buehler couldn't make the adjustment. The good news, though, is that he apparently has nailed all of his attempts in the four OTA sessions.
Phillips thinks it's important for him to make field goals with his teammates standing around. But we won't have a definitive answer on Buehler until he makes a few in front of 70,000 folks or so.