It's no stretch to say that the Cowboys' special teams unit has been terrible over the past two seasons. There are bright spots, of course, like Mat McBriar and Nick Folk, both of which are former Pro Bowlers; but on the whole, the unit was mediocre to, well, terrible. Coverage? Flimsy. Kickoffs? Short and returnable. Talent? Not counting the aforementioned two, left something to be desired.
But as last Sunday's win made clear, the unit is no longer an afterthought. We got some early evidence when the team went out and grabbed Joe DeCamillis, arguably the best special teams coach in the game, and drafted David Buehler as a kickoff specialist/ all-around super-athlete; but wary are the eyes who watched the Cowboys play football in 2008.
This is why seeing the team dominate that aspect of the game so thoroughly on Sunday was more than a little refreshing. Starters spangle every unit; Gerald Sensabaugh (a starter) blocked a field goal attempt when Keith Brooking (a starter) and Orlando Scandrick (a sometimes starter) opened up a crease in the Bucs' line; Buehler came one touchback away from equaling the team total in that area over the last two seasons.
Suffice it to say, the change was immediate and noticeable; one that was instilled and personified by the fiery DeCamillis, stalking the sidelines in his usually ultra-intense manner.
"I just think Joe D's brought an intensity to the whole unit and everyone's kind of fed off of it and brought their own intensity to the field, and if we can keep it up for the next fifteen games I think we'll have a pretty good unit coming at the end of the year," said Nick Folk, who nailed two field goals in the game. "You know, you get starters playing for special teams, and they want to help the team any way they can, so I think we're heading in the right direction there."
DeCamillis brings an accountability and a sense of necessity, of importance, to the facet of the game that is all too often forgotten. This is why starters are not just willing, but eager to contribute to this area of the game; it's also why McBriar laughed when reporters asked if the DeCamillis might back off to some degree in that department. "No, no," McBriar laughed. "You know Joe."