Thursday, May 08, 2014

Miami Dolphins Confidential Issue 9 "Special Teams"


The offseason goal of every team in the NFL is to improve their team.  The primary wave of free agency has passed. Next up will be the NFL draft followed by the bargain shopping in the free agency after the draft. GM’s and fans alike tend to focus on the new additions to the team when trying to get a feel for how much improvement the team will show.  However, a very important aspect of the success of all teams will hinge on how the players remaining on their rosters from the prior season improve or decline.  We at Bitchin Dave’s thought it would add some intrigue to the offseason lull to have a discussion on where we feel the team is at and where they are headed.

The prognosticators will be Carl “The Ref” Leone , Chad “ The Baumhower” Ronnebaum . We will be having a position by position debate on where the Dolphins ranked in 2013 as well as where we see them ranking at the end of 2014.  We are going to start with our pre-draft rankings and then will update this post draft and probably once or twice prior to the start of season as the final free agent signings and injuries shape the team during training camp and the preseason.

Scale: We are using a 10 point scale to rank where we felt the positions ranked against the rest of league in 2013 as well as where we predict they will rank in 2014.  5 out of 10 for example would mean we rank the unit as about the 15-16th best unit in the league.  10 out of 10 would basically feature pro bowl players at the top of the league and 0 out of 10 would be dead last or the worst unit in the league. In the final Issue number nine will review the special teams.

 
Special Teams

                                                                                                Chad’s Take                          Carl’s Take

2013 Position Rank
4 out of 10                       3 out of 10
2014 Prediction
6 out of 10                       5 out of 10

 

Predicted Depth Chart
2014 Improvement/Decline Prediction
Brandon Fields
0                                          0
Caleb Sturgis
+2                                        +2 or Cut
Marcus Thigpen
0                                          0 or Cut

 

Carl: Here is where the rubber hits the road.

Chad: The Dolphins special teams were not that special in 2013.  The bright spot was punter Brandon Fields who has turned into one of the better punters in the league. He is developing good placement skills and has a boomer for a leg.  Punters typically don’t drop off much so I would expect another solid year out of Fields. 

Carl: Fields is the best in the league. Hands down. He has consistently been a stat leader since entering the league and he got robbed by a few bonehead penalties by our cover team.

Chad: Caleb Sturgis was inconsistent through 2013 as you might expect with a rookie kicker.  He missed two kicks inside 39 yds.  Not acceptable from a NFL caliber kicker.

Carl: He is not going to survive the season if he doesn’t get straightened out in camp. If they move the extra point line back permanently he would be gone already. He had a good half dozen extra points just slide inside the goal posts. I am dying to see how this plays out the first couple preseason games.

Chad:  He also missed two from the range of 40-49 yards and he missed 4 from over 50 yards.  Keeping in mind he was only a rookie, I expect a jump in improvement this year. I would expect him to be 100% inside 39 yards and 90% inside 49 yards and finally 75% in the 50-59 range.

Carl: 75% is a lot to ask any kicker from 50-59 yards. I would take 50% any day.

Chad: Let’s all hope he reaches that this season.  2 or 3 missed kicks can be the difference in the making the playoffs.

Carl: 2 or 3 missed kicks and you get fired. Clean out the locker. I expect competition in camp and Sturgis may not survive. Although he does boom those kick offs.

Chad: Marcus Thigpen was ok but not spectacular in 2013. He brings some additional value as a player that can get in on a few other plays out of the backfield as he showed in the New England game. 

Carl: If we draft a WR that can return kicks then Thigpen is a goner. 

Chad: I am not a big fan of bringing the ball out of the end zone on kick returns unless you are behind with only seconds remaining. I think you have to make it to the 30 yard line to make it worthwhile.  Every time you return a kickoff you are risking a game changing turnover as well as risking injuries to players.  So in my mind it is not worthwhile to give a roster spot to a return “specialists”. In particular if it takes away a solid #5 WR or #4 RB off your roster.

Carl: Injuries are a legitimate concern but they are part of the game. Our return units cannot block to save their lives. We also made too many bonehead mistakes covering great kicks, getting penalized and then having to re-kick only to have them get a great return. I thought the Specials Team coach should’ve been fired. In the middle of the season! This unit, other than Fields and Denny, our long snapper, needs a makeover. Big time.

 
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