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Folk, Buehler compete for field goal job

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' kicking competition got off on the wrong feet Tuesday afternoon.

Nick Folk, who has missed six of his last nine field goal attempts, remains the favorite by default. Rookie kickoff specialist David Buehler is trying to play the role of challenger.

Folk missed two of four field goal attempts during the portion of Tuesday's practice the media was allowed to watch. All three of Buehler's attempts sailed wide right.

Before practice, Folk acknowledged that it's in the Cowboys' best interests to have some internal competition. Buehler said he would begin to focus more on field goals.

"They have to do what they need to do," Folk said. "I'm ready for it. I'll take it like I did a couple of years ago."

Folk was referring to the preseason battle he won over incumbent kicker Martin Gramatica before earning a trip to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. After two consistent, outstanding seasons, Folk has hit a funk. He is 17-of-26 this season, missing two more attempts than he did in his first two seasons combined. Folk is 4-of-11 from 40 to 49 yards after going 17-of-19 from that range in the first two seasons.

Buehler has focused primarily on kickoffs while working some at long-distance field goals. He hasn't worked much on field goals shorter than 50 yards since training camp.

"I've got to get out there and fine-tune my form," Buehler said. "When the opportunity arises, you've got to be ready."

Buehler made 26 of 33 field goal attempts during his career at USC. He struggled from 40-49 yards, making only six of 11.

The Cowboys did not draft Buehler in the fifth round to challenge Folk. They thought they needed a kickoff specialist with great leg strength after Folk failed to have a touchback last season. Buehler has 21 touchbacks.

However, with Folk's struggles, the time has come for some competition.

"Nick's the field goal kicker as of now, obviously," Buehler said. "It's his job to lose, but I'm going to go out there and push him and compete. When the opportunity arises, you've got to be ready."

Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis ruled out signing a free agent kicker and expressed confidence that Folk can revert to form.

"Give me an answer [about] who we can pick up that's out there right now that's not in the same situation that Nick's in right now," DeCamillis said. "Jason Elam, he's missed however many and he got waived by Atlanta. If those guys are out there right now, they've had struggles. [Ex-Washington Redskin Shaun] Suisham missed two here. The same situation, everybody is dealing with it.

"You just have to keep plugging through it and try to work yourself through it as much as you can. Has it hurt us? Yes, it's hurt us. We just got to keep working the process and try to get the guy better for what he can do. He's been very successful in this league."

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.