Straight Shooter

IRVING, Tex. - When he was drafted a year ago by the Dallas Cowboys, kicker David Buehler raised a few eyebrows.

After all, the team had a young kicker in Nick Folk who had enormous power in his leg, and already had been to a Pro Bowl. More eyebrows were raised when Folk faltered, he was replaced as the team's field goal kicker not by Buehler, but by Washington Redskins castoff Shaun Suisham.

Now Suisham is gone, and the Cowboys are making every effort to give Buehler the job. Former New Orleans and Pittsburgh kicker Connor Hughes was signed, but he was cut earlier this week. Delbert Alvarado, a rookie from South Florida, was signed, but he has worked more as a punter than placekicker during mini-camps and OTAs.

In other words, Buehler is basically the only placekicker the Cowboys have under contract as they get ready to head to San Antonio at the end of July for the start of training camp.

Buehler was told to work on his accuracy over the offseason. To help, the Cowboys brought in former Dallas kicker Chris Boniol to work with Buehler.

"I've learned a lot from Chris," Buehler said. "When we started working together, he just watched me for a while, to see what we could work on.

"He saw a few minor things, and we went to work. One thing he noticed was that when I was in my stance, getting ready to kick, I had a little hitch in my first step with my left foot. That was one of the first things we worked on."

Buehler acknowledged that smoothing out the first step of his approach to the ball, of course, doesn't necessarily affect the actual flight of the ball.

"But what it does is it makes the whole motion smoother, from the time I get set before the ball is snapped until the time I actually make contact with the ball," Buehler said. "The more moving parts you can eliminate, the better you can repeat the (kicking) motion, and reduce mistakes."

Buehler said that before Boniol rebuilt Buehler's kicking motion, he had to tear down the old one. That, Buehler said, led to a lot of doubt and questions about Boniol as a teacher.

"I was really frustrated," he said. "For a while there, my accuracy was off — way off. There were times I questioned what he was doing."

But before long, Buehler started to iron out the kinks in his approach to the ball, and in his kicking motion. Once his leg started repeating the motion more consistently, the accuracy came back … better than it had been before.

"Chris said kicking is a lot like hitting a golf ball — the people who do it well, who do it consistently, are the ones who repeat the exact same motion every single time," Buehler said. "That's what I'm learning to do. If I can get more consistent, my accuracy will continue to get better."

Buehler, whose strong leg got him the job as the Cowboys' kickoff specialist last year, said he was worried that tweaking his mechanics might cost him some power in his kicks, but said that fear was unfounded.

"When he broke down my old motion, I lost some power," Buehler said, "but it came back. Kickoffs, long field goals … I'll be fine."

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