Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Training Camp Roster Breakdown 2009: Specialists

The final segment of the training camp positional breakdowns 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).

Dan Carpenter
If you look only at field goal percentage, then yes, Dan Carpenter had a nice rookie season. But as I've written here many a time, it's been shown (by Football Outsiders and the New York Times among others) that field goal accuracy is almost entirely random from year to year. Kickoff distance, on the other hand, is extremely consistent from year to year. So when trying to predict what Carpenter will do in his second season, you can pretty much toss out his 84% on field goals, and instead focus on his 64.1 yard average kickoff distance - a poor number that is only made worse when squib kicks are taken out of the equation. According to FO, Carpenter had the 29th ranked gross kickoff value over average in 2008, better than only four other kickers in the league. That kind of performance on kickoffs is simply not acceptable, especially with such a leaky coverage unit. It makes one pine for the days of Olindo Mare, who once again led the league in gross kickoff value, and who is perennially among the very best in that category. (I still wish the team hadn't gotten rid of him.) Carpenter's lack of leg strength showed up on offense too, as the coaching staff would simply not let him attempt a field goal over 50 yards. He only attempted one field goal from that distance all season. Field goals from that distance are admittedly difficult, but to simply not have the option is undesirable. I hope he can improve his leg strength this year, but the research makes that a bleak proposition.

John Denney
A perfectly fine long snapper, I don't recall him botching any snaps this year. He also tacked on four special teams tackles. The coaches haven't brought in any competition for him since they got here, so he must be fine.

Brandon Fields
Once again, Fields was one of the very few players in training camp who had no competition. His numbers last year were essentially the same as his rookie year, trending slightly upward in average distance (43.2 yds to 43.9 yds) but trending slightly downward in net average (36.6 to 35.5). Where he really improved was placing his punts inside the 20 yard line and forcing fair catches. He put 24 punts inside the 20, and forced 15 fair catches. Fields does have a booming leg, but he can sometimes out-kick the coverage, leading to a big return. He's still not as consistent as I'd like to see. It hurts that Miami traded away Donnie Jones for the draft pick that was used to take Fields. Jones is one of the best punters in the league and finished 3rd in the league last year in gross punt value over average. At this stage, Fields is just an average punter.

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There's no competition for any of the spots here, so this will be easy:
K - Dan Carpenter
P - Brandon Fields
LS - John Denney

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