What's So Special?

Dallas special teams coach Joe DeCamillis is many things: tough, fiery and an obsessive perfectionist.

The Cowboys' special teams improved last year under his watch, but still lacked consistency. With DeCamillis, anything short of universal excellence is unacceptable.

"Kickoff return, we have to improve on — we did not do a good enough job on that," he said. "All the other (special) teams, we were above-average to good, but kickoff return — we were never comfortable with what we did. We have a long way to go and we're going to be emphasizing that really quick."

DeCamillis is tweaking a number of the Cowboys' special teams this year. Once again, he is considering a number of holders for placekicks, although at the moment, DeCamillis said the job belongs to punter Mat McBriar, who has altered his positioning when waiting for the snap.

"(McBriar has) opened it up more, so he is a bigger target for (long-snapper) L.P. (Ladouceur)," DeCamillis said. "He is letting the ball come into his body a little bit more and has worked at it and done a good job.

"When you reach for the ball more, you open up for error, but the more it comes into your body in the same spot every time you have a chance to put it down the same way."

McBriar is not the only Cowboy fielding snaps. Quarterbacks Tony Romo and Jon Kitna are in the mix, as is wide receiver Patrick Crayton. But as DeCamillis pointed out, the idea is to settle on one guy and let that player work with David Buehler, who is expected to assume the placekicking duties this season. As much as perhaps any two teammates on the team, the kicker and holder have to know each other, know each other's timing and develop complete confidence in each other's tendencies.

"We will work other guys — Tony is the backup, and Crayton will take reps," DeCamillis said. "Kitna was out there in OTAs, but we want to get David in a groove as much as we can, so we're going to focus on that."

Part of the reason for the multiple candidates, DeCamillis said, is that the uncertainty of who will end up on the roster, so he has to prepare multiple candidates.

"You have all preseason to go through," DeCamillis said. "You need to see who is healthy and who makes the team and who makes the 45(-man roster). It's a process we're going to go through and keep working at it. We have a good group and it's a nice problem to have, to choose from guys. Sometimes, you have no guys, so we're in a good spot."

DeCamillis has one weapon available to him that he didn't have last year: first-round draft choice Dez Bryant, who has fielded both kickoffs and punts during mini-camps and OTAs. Whether Bryant ends up as a part of the return game remains to be seen, but he is an electric athlete with very good size and speed, and has a knack for making plays.

"Dez is really comfortable back there (returning kickoffs)," DeCamillis said. "He has only done scout team stuff so far, (but) he is special with the ball in his hands, so we're going to have to try to help any way we a can."

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