Dallas Cowboys Staff Writers
(Editor’s Note: Over the next month, the staff of DallasCowboys.com is looking to answer the 20 biggest questions facing the team heading into the 2022 season. Today, the staff writers discuss the kicker position.)
FRISCO, Texas – During OTAs and minicamp, there was only one internal candidate for the Cowboys’ kicker opening: rookie Jonathan Garibay.
But the Cowboys are set to add competition before they head to training camp at the end of the month. Lirim Hajrullahu is expected to sign back to the roster after appearing in one game for Dallas last season. And no doubt the Cowboys have more names on their short list depending on how camp and preseason goes.
But for now, it looks like it’ll be a two-man competition between Garibay, the undrafted rookie out of Texas Tech, and the 32-year-old Hajrullahu, who made a couple of All-Star teams in the CFL before making his NFL debut with the Cowboys and Panthers last year.
Which direction will the Cowboys go by Week 1 against Tampa Bay? The staff writers peek into their crystal ball for this “20 Questions” entry.
Nick Eatman: It’ll be Jonathan Garibay. My prediction is he not only is the kicker in Week 1, but the entire season and into next year as well. There’s something about his demeanor that I really like. And I think it will translate well to him on the field. We all know it’s nearly impossible to judge kickers. I remember the Cowboys signing Mike Vanderjagt in 2006 because he was the best in NFL history – and then he wasn’t. And at one time, Dan Bailey was the best in league history and then he fell off. You never really know how these things are going to go. But since its a big deal and we need to have an answer here in July, give me Garibay to win the competition over Hajrullahu and everyone else looking to get that spot.
Rob Phillips: If I say anyone besides Jonathan Garibay, that would suggest I’ve seen something that makes me think Garibay can’t win the job. Truth is, I haven’t. So far we’ve seen him kick in practice exactly once: the first and only minicamp practice last month. He made almost all his field goal attempts during that indoor session, and it’s easy to see why he connected on that 62-yarder against Iowa State last November. The ball soars off his foot. Very strong leg. And in his first interview with the local media, you could tell his approach to the job is really good. He obviously doesn’t have the NFL experience Greg Zuerlein brought to the table the past two years, but neither did Dan Bailey in 2011. The Cowboys obviously see something in Hajrullahu, too. This will be the fourth time he’s signed with Dallas. So let’s just see how it goes.
Mickey Spagnola: OK, finally we have some legit kicking competition, I think, the Cowboys bringing back Lirim Hajrullahu. And even if they were sold on rookie free agent Jonathan Garibay, they certainly didn’t want him doing all the kicking during training camp, wearing out his leg. Plus, there is nothing wrong with a little, or, even a lot of kicking competition during training camp. Talent is one thing. Handling pressure is another. So now we will see on Garibay. But I sure like what I’ve seen from Garibay so far. He kicks a straight ball. None of this hook or slice stuff that kicking coaches hate. He has a live leg. Long ago Cowboys kicking guru Steve Hoffman taught me to listen to the ball coming off a kicker’s foot to judge leg strength. Well, Garibay has a strong-sounding “thud,” and in the brief time we’ve seen him kick, he sure has 50-plus yard range and proved at Texas Tech he can make a 62-yarder under pressure. Now it’s about confidence and experience. He sure has confidence for a guy who’s only kicked two years in JUCO and two at Texas Tech. What the Cowboys must find out during training camp and preseason is if he has mental capacity to get himself back straight after a bad miss. And now we’ll see how he handles another kicker looking over his shoulder. Hajrullahu is no slouch. Strong leg, too. And who knows, there might be a golden nugget out there available after July 15, a guy with NFL experience. But other than that, all the rest currently available out there are retreads, guys another team has moved on from. Can’t wait for those live kicking sessions during training camp to see if I’m right about this California kid.
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Dallas Cowboys Staff Writers