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The Cowboys’ kicking competition was expected to be one to watch coming into training camp. So far, though, watching it hasn’t been pretty.
The team currently has two unproven specialists in Oxnard gunning for the regular-season roster spot. But based on their early performances to this point, it might not be surprising to see special teams guru John Fassel call in some other legs for a look-see.
Undrafted rookie Jonathan Garibay came to the Cowboys from Texas Tech with a 62-yard game-winner in college as his claim to fame. The California native was seen as the heir apparent to All-Pro Greg Zuerlein after the veteran struggled last year.
But then Dallas brought Lirim Hajrallahu back into the building last month. The ex-CFL star spent time in Cowboys camp in 2021 while Zuerlein rehabbed injuries. After a stint on the practice squad, he got the call in Week 10 and connected on five PATs versus Atlanta. He was released shortly thereafter and eventually signed with Carolina for the last three games of their season, hitting 4-of-5 field goals. Now he’s back for a second chance with the Cowboys and to give Garibay a battle.
But neither man seems to be putting their best foot forward.
Michael Gehlken reports that Hajrullahu went 3-for-8 with four straight misses on Tuesday. Garibay went 6-of-8, but missed two of his final three.
Uninspiring field-goal period for Cowboys. Lirim Hajrullahu was 3-of-8 with four straight misses from 43, 48, 48 and 52. Jonathan Garibay went 6-of-8 with misses in two of final three tries (48, 52). Had chance to end on high note from 52 but missed mark. Bit of breeze in Oxnard. pic.twitter.com/ZIlF56QZmX
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 2, 2022
After that session, head coach Mike McCarthy called for one of his patented “Mojo Moments,” when a real-life game situation is suddenly announced and practiced on the fly.
Given how the Cowboys’ 2021 postseason ended, the team is working on racing the kicking unit onto the field with a running clock.
Hajrullahu got hurry-up field goal tries from 49, 54, and 59 yards. He missed the final two.
Garibay got the same chances. He missed them all.
The first “Mojo Moment” of camp involved a “down by two, clock running out” situation.
— Kyle Youmans (@Kyle_Youmans) August 1, 2022
Things were slightly more encouraging on Monday. Hajruallahu converted 7-of-8 tries and both his Mojo Moments. Garibay went 6-of-8 but missed both “Mojo” attempts.
McCarthy tried not to sound overly concerned about his kicking unit in his remarks to start the week, but he admitted that that phase of the game will receive extra attention for the next several days.
“It was their first time in front of a crowd, obviously, but also with the protection and rush behind them,” the coach said of his dueling specialists Monday. “It’s not what they were looking for. I think the thing that I walked away from practice [with] is we need to do more of it. Frankly, we’re going to kick every day this week. We’ll kick today and tomorrow, and we’ll kick Thursday and Friday. We’ve got to make sure we get both of those guys more opportunities.”
The Cowboys have lost four games in McCarthy’s two seasons by three points or fewer. Each of those losses saw Dallas miss at least one kick.
A summer breeze in Oxnard may have upped the degree of difficulty slightly for Garibay and Hajrullahu on Tuesday. But it bears remembering that the Cowboys will play outdoor games in Green Bay in mid-November, in Tennessee on New Year’s Eve weekend, and in Washington in early January.
The breezes may be more than stiff then; whoever ends up with the kicking job in Dallas had better develop the resolve to match.