Monday, August 4, 2008

Training Camp Positional Preview 2008: Specialists

The final segment of the training camp positional previews looks at the specialists. Tomorrow, I'll go back through the previews and compile my predicted depth charts to see what my predicted 53-man roster will look like (trimming or adding players as necessary).

Here's a closer look at the individual specialists currently on the roster and what can be expected of them this coming season:

Jay Feely
It looks like Randy Mueller made the correct decision last offseason by trading away Olindo Mare before his wheels really fell off (only 10/17 on field goals). Jay Feely, on the other hand, set the franchise record for field goal percentage (91.3%) in a single season. Still, field goal percentage is almost entirely random from season to season, so the simple fact that Feely had an incredibly accurate year is not cause enough to simply hand him a roster spot. Kickoff distance is where Feely really struggled, and unlike field goal percentage, kickoff distance is one of the most consistent statistics in football. He averaged a pathetic 57.8 yards per kickoff and kicked only 8 touchbacks.

However, some part of that very low average can be attributed to Cam Cameron's foolish decisions to squib kick so often and in situations that did not dictate such measures. From the camp reports, Feely is kicking farther and landing more touchbacks than last season, and more than his competitor, so it still seems like Feely is the correct choice. Besides, if it turns out that Feely's kickoff woes can no longer be tolerated during the season, it's likely that Dan Carpenter would still be around. The same cannot be said for Feely if he were to be cut and Carpenter were to struggle.

Dan Carpenter
Carpenter is getting a fair chance to compete with Feely for the kicking job in training camp, and while he is showing just as much accuracy as Feely, his kickoff distances are falling shorter than Feely's. Given that Feely is not a very good kickoff man, that doesn't speak well of Carpenter's ability to kickoff deep.

Brandon Fields
Punter is really the only position on the Dolphins that isn't being contested in training camp. Parcells and Ireland seemingly liked Fields from the moment they took over the team, and it's understandable why. Fields has an absolutely huge leg, and he's capable of booming his punts with the best of them. The problem is his consistency. He mixed in those boomers with several shanks last year, and that was precisely the scouting report on him coming out of college. Still, he played at a league average level in his rookie season, and that's not bad. He should improve on his consistency at least a little bit this year. Fields also has experience kicking off, and it would be great to see him take over the kickoff duties from Feely, since his huge leg seems more suitable for the role. Hopefully, the coaching staff will give him the opportunity to win that role during training camp.

John Denney
Denney is the team's long-snapper. You can judge this position by how often you hear the player's name throughout the season. Since they are only called out when they mess up, the less you hear the guy's name, the better he's playing. By that measurement, Denney's been pretty good and I can't remember any snap that he's totally botched. Like they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.


Here's my predicted depth chart:
K - Jay Feely
P - Brandon Fields
LS - John Denney

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