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There's been a bit of a preseason shakeup at kicker for the Dallas Cowboys, as they ready themselves to take on the Houston Texans on Saturday -- in what will be their third preseason game of 2021. The team held a workout for Lirim Hajrullahu on Monday, sources told CBS Sports earlier this week, which led to both sides agreeing to a two-year deal mid-week. That, of course, required a roster move, and it came at the expense of punter Hunter Niswander, whom the team opted to release on Thursday.

And with that, Niswander's once promising career in Dallas has ended, after stepping in and impressing at punter in 2020 in the wake of injury to the now-released Chris Jones. Originally believed to have the job all but secured for 2021, the Cowboys and special teams coordinator John "Bones" Fassel instead signed punter Bryan Anger to the mix -- creating an intriguing competition in the process (read: signed Niswander's walking papers). 

"Bryan is who I would hoped he was going to be, which is a helluva punter," said Fassel on Thursday, after explaining what happened with Niswander and praising his potential.

"In [the Hall of Fame Game], the injury something kinda crept up with him," he added. "It was kinda his glute in his back, and it wasn't any one thing that did it. It was just his back, I don't think it was overuse because we weren't kicking him more than once every three days. 

"I don't know actually what happened, and I don't think he does either. It just kinda happened. He got it checked out. It's too bad because he was a very valuable leg and a great potential punter."

With starting kicker Greg Zuerlein beginning training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list due to a back injury, Niswander was tasked with placekicking and field goals, and the latter was basically an unmitigated failure. Matters were made worse when Niswander himself suffered a back injury on Monday, clearing the path for Anger to stick at punter, but with Zuerlein still on the PUP list, the Cowboys need a kicker against the Texans.

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Hajrullahu is now the guy, at least for the moment. For the record, Zuerlein hasn't suffered any setbacks in his recovery, sources told CBS Sports on Friday.

The latter is still expected to take the field in Week 1 when the Cowboys play Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the team is hoping he can get some kicks in during the final preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. If they opt to play it safe with him, however, it'll be Hajrullahu kicking in that game as well. And it'll be interesting to see what happens in the days following that contest, considering the NFL deadline to cutdown rosters from 85 men to 53 looms large, and while letting Zuerlein remain on PUP for now saves a roster spot -- the moment he's activated, one will be needed.

Which means Hajrullahu's stay in Dallas might be short-lived, as expected, and despite his contract.

"I think Greg needs about three to four weeks of kicking to get ready for a regular season game," Fassel said ahead of the preseason battle with the Arizona Cardinals. "And I learned that from Sebastian Janikowski when I was in Oakland. 'Sea Bass' really didn't really hardly ever kick all spring or all summer because he knew the amount of volume was going to happen in the preseason, regular season, postseason. So, especially when they become veteran guys, that I'm actually very happy with how great he progressed off the little deal he had this summer. 

"I told [Zuerlein] I thought it was a blessing in disguise because it has prevented him from over kicking, because Greg has the tendency to be an over kicker. He just loves to kick so much. So, I think the timing is going to be great, and by Jacksonville or at least Week 1. 

"He's going to be 100% on all cylinders and very excited about it."

Fassel maintained his optimism when speaking to media on Thursday.

"[Zuerlein] had a great kicking session today," he said. "We've been kicking him about every other day -- every third day and he's progressing just like we hoped. Last week, against Arizona, he got a little bit of pregame workout in. We hope to do that here in two days just go out on the field and do that pregame warmup routine, have operational kicks with our snapper and our holder. 

"Hopefully kick him in Jacksonville."

Hajrullahu does provide some insurance in the event there is a setback on Zuerlein in the next couple weeks, and the former CFL All-Star also has the ability to punt, although Anger hasn't had any issues in that area. As for granting him a two-year deal versus a more expected one-year contract, sources affirm it's largely due to the Cowboys affinity for being cap-conscious, and the added year gives them more flexibility in that regard. In other words, if he's released soon as expected, the cap hit (which is already minimal) would spread over two years, as opposed to only 2021.

So, at least for now, there are no surprises hiding in the bushes when it comes to Cowboys kickers; and they hope to keep it that way.