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The first big play of the Dolphins’ last practice of their mini camp came when
While he’s never had a punt block in a regular season game, Spitler has made a lot of things happen on special teams since he joined the Dolphins as a seventh-round pick in 2010. Now the former Ohio State standout is hoping his work on special teams leads to bigger and better things, namely an increased role on defense.
“If I didn’t have a goal to play on defense more and try to be the best I can be, what am I doing here?” Spitler said. “I want to play as much as I can and help this team as much as possible. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get out there and help this team win games.”
Spitler has appeared in 43 games over the past three seasons, but has yet to start a game.
Regardless, he’s a player the Dolphins clearly like. The evidence came this spring when Spitler was the only one of the team’s six restricted free agents to be tendered a qualifying offer.
And Spitler has done nothing this spring to diminish his standing on the team.
“Austin Spitler is a guy that we think has really had a good offseason program,” Head Coach Joe Philbin said this week during a Q&A session with Season-Ticket Members. “He played a lot of special teams for us last year (and) we really like what we’ve seen from him.”
Spitler says he’s feeling a lot more comfortable in the Dolphins’ defense this spring, the second offseason using defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s scheme.
“I feel very positive about the strides that I’ve taken in these OTAs and in this minicamp,” Spitler said. “I feel a lot more comfortable out there just leading the defense as a whole, getting everybody lined up, whether it be the front or the back end and really taking control of it. That’s where I feel I’ve made my strides.”
Spitler isn’t the only Dolphins special teams mainstay looking for a bigger role from the line of scrimmage in 2013.
After becoming the first player in franchise history to return both a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown in the same season,
Thigpen, who had one carry and one reception in 2012, got a lot more work at running back this spring and he’s hoping it’s a sign of things to come.
“They see me making moves out there in the open field,” Thigpen said. “Every time I get the ball in my hands, I can make a play. They figure if I can get some balls coming out of the backfield or the slot, I can do the same thing on offense, help them out and try to win some games.
“It’s real exciting. It’s something I’ve been striving for my whole career. Just to finally get the opportunity, I’m thankful for it. I’ve just got to keep working this offseason and come back in camp and just prove what I can do with pads on. It’s easy to do it out here in helmet and jersey, but when we come back with pads on I need to let me know I’m about business.”
It’s the same for Spitler, who knows what he does in training camp and the preseason could determine how much playing time he gets on defense during the regular season.
“You’ve got to go out there and make your mark on defense,” Spitler said. “They can see you out there flying around, but it’s two separate aspects when it comes to special teams and defense. If I want to make my mark on defense, I’ve got to go out there and show them I can do it.”