Special Teams CAN be for the Dolphins too!! Football fans sometime forget the fact that there are 3 aspects to the game: Offense, Defense AND Special teams. To be a complete team in the NFL it is important to be successful in each of these aspects. In fact if you look at some teams around the league it is a strong special teams unit that put their teams over the top. Chicago and Seattle most likely would not have been playoff teams last year if it isn’t for their strong special teams play. Special teams and Miami are two things that did not get along very well last year. Aside from Chad Henne and Rex Ryan’s foot obsession, Miami’s special team last year might have been the most frustrating aspect of last season. Initially led by fired special teams coach John Bonamego Miami’s special teams unit ranked in the bottom half of the league all year.
Miami ranked 22nd in average kickoff return yards and 15th in average punt return yards. While those numbers aren’t AWFUL, it is important to note how the leaders in our division did. New England was 3rd in the league in average punt return yards and the Jets were 3rd in average kickoff return yards. Also note worthy is that New England had 3 return touchdowns, and those loud mouth Jets had 2, while Miami had 0. That being said special teams goes two ways, you got to be able to have exciting returns but it is just as important to be able to cover kicks. Miami allowed the 5th most kickoff return yards and 11th most punt return yards. The dreadful stats continue as the Dolphins also gave up 3 return touchdowns. Once again it is important to see how we faired compared to the other teams in our division. The Jets allowed the 3rd least amount of kickoff return yards in the league and New England allowed the 6th least amount of punt return yards in the league. Both teams also didn’t give up the big play very often. The Jets and Patriots combined to give up 1 return touchdown compared to Miami’s 3.
Now the sad thing is that I am not even done ripping our beloved team because unfortunately it gets worse. Not only do those stats show how far behind New England and New York we are, they also don’t tell the full story. Miami also had their fare share of issues with blocked punts and field goals. This was most obvious in the Monday Night disaster against New England. I would attach the video of Patrick Chung’s blocked punt for a touchdown against Miami but I think it might be too painful to watch. While I don’t think Fields or Dan Carpenter are the problem, this is an issue that needs to be dealt with.
Bottom line is if the Miami organization wants to start having dreams about the division and playoffs, it might be time to start spending a little more attention to Miami’s CLEAR issues with special teams.
Miami has to find a solution to their returning lulls, whether its Kory Sheets returning from injury, rookie Edmund Gates or signing a guy like Leon Washington, Darren Sproles or Norwood, Miami NEEDS to find an explosive guy who can be a factor in the return game. I hate to bring up the greatest WR in Dolphins history Ted Ginn (pause to laugh) but in ‘09 Ginn’s return performance alone was able to get us a win over the Jets. On the kick coverage side, Miami needs to let players like Tim Dobbins who was a special team captain in San Diego play the role he does best. I know Dobbins had to fill as Linebacker due to injury issues but with Edds back Dobbins needs to put his focus solely into special teams. Miami had a lot of roster churning and needs to make sure player roles are made clear before the season starts.
When I asked everybody’s favorite Dolphins beat writer Omar Kelly on twitter, how big of a weakness will special teams be for Dolphins? He responded, it won't be THAT big if they find a returner, stop churning the roster.
Miami needs to get their act together and take advantage of the special teams aspect of game because as you can see clearly New England and New York are. There is no easier way for the Dolphins to add a W or 2 to their count then by improving their special teams.
I agree. Improving the ST needs to be a priority this offseason. I think Omar hit the nail on the head, though. It was impossible for the Dolphins to establish any cohesivness with their coverage, return, punt, and kick units with new faces assuming key assignments each week. Hopefully, Jeff Ireland learned his lesson and we don't see as much movement on the fringe of the roster. I think Edmond Gates can be a dangerous kick returner but we'll have to see if he has the smarts and the toughness to handle punt return duty. My guess is Bess still handles that role in 2011.