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Dolphins Among NFL Elite On Special Teams

Posted Jan 23, 2013

Miami’s third phase has set a high bar the past two seasons.

Football coaches always preach the importance of winning on offense, defense and special teams, with an emphasis on that third group. That’s where games can turn, either on a big kickoff or punt return or with a game-winning field goal or even a field flipping punt.

The Miami Dolphins have excelled in that area the last two seasons under special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi and the numbers support that notion.

According to Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News and his unique chart, the Dolphins ranked fourth behind only the Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens on special teams last season. They finished with 296 points in Gosselin’s scoring system, which like golf rewards the lowest score, as the league’s 32 teams are ranked in 22 categories and assigned points according to their standing – one for best, 32 for worst. Minnesota had 253.5, followed by Cincinnati’s 276 and Baltimore’s 277.

Punter Brandon Fields led the NFL in 2012 with a 50.2 gross punting average and Marcus Thigpen became the first Dolphins to return a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown in the same season. He finished the season ranked in the top 5 as a punt returner and a kick returner.

In 2011, Miami ranked second behind only the San Francisco 49ers with 230.5 points, five points higher than the Niners’ 225.5. The Dolphins jumped all the way from 24th in 2010 and ranked in the top 10 in 14 of the 22 categories in 2011. Under Rizzi’s direction, two members of the special teams have gone to the Pro Bowl (kicker Dan Carpenter and long snapper John Denny(twice)).
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