The special teams unit is often overlooked but is an integral part of any NFL team and the Dolphins are lucky to have a special coach in Darren Rizzi.
As the month of June appears and things tend to slow down a bit I decided to revisit a topic I cut my teeth on early last off-season while starting my first season writing pieces here.
While covering the offense and defense for recaps all last season (which I hope to do again) I could still see how some players were needed on special teams even though they also excelled on either defense or offense but mostly defense from what I noticed.
Will some of the players noticed last season get a chance at more playing time on other units as they go into their second season under coach Gase? That might depend on the new class of players coming in now and how well they play on special teams. To get an idea on who these players might be I suggest checking out Chris Perkins (@chrisperk) on Twitter.
More from Dolphins News
- 4 offensive tackles Miami Dolphins could draft at 51
- Miami Dolphins don’t need CB help but these 5 could be available at 51
- 4 players that could replace Wilkins if Miami Dolphins don’t re-sign him
- Miami Dolphins have a starting point with Wilkins after Simmons deal
- The Miami Dolphins should not take a running back in the draft
Players can make a name for themselves by making big plays on special teams. But that alone isn’t enough they either have to keep on making big plays (no easy task) or transition more into the offensive or defensive units.
Special team players Michael Thomas and Walt Aikens both have shots at free safety positions should they excel this off-season. As there wasn’t much additions there beside Nate Allen and T.J. McDonald. Both of whom are also learning the position (FS). As is Reshad Jones in an effort to have a fully interchangeable backfield.
Thomas and Aikens both played 80% of their snaps on special teams. On defense Aikens wasn’t used much despite the need that arose from the many injuries to starters playing just 15 snaps. However Thomas played 571 snaps he was a busy camper. And during resent activities he is being used all over the backfield.
Also of note is Thomas being asked and being ‘most comfortable’ playing slot corner this week. He also stated that he used to play that position long ago in his College days.
Neville Hewitt and possibly Spencer Paysinger, should the Dolphins bring him back have openings playing linebacker. Koa Misi is not expected to participate in activities anytime soon due to what was an earlier severe neck injury. Someone will need to pickup the 78 tackles in 13 games Misi had should he not come around. Coach Gase made the following statement on the matter.
"I don’t know. We’re not there yet. When you see him start running around or something, then I’d say we’re close."
This is true Gase and shows a peek of what he is made of.
Possibly transitioning players and players not resigned yet.
Spencer Paysinger stands out the most having played 259 snaps on special teams and 333 on defense. He has stated to know all the linebacker positions and his stats filling in there last season are on par with Neville Hewitt.
Speaking of Hewitt, 355 ST snaps – 352 defense; he has drawn accolades for his play. And has a chance to break away with a greater contribution playing as a rotational linebacker.
The Miami Dolphins have not gone deep in the running back’s room this season. So some of the ST snaps might come from them provided the offensive unit can get out of last in the league in number of snaps overall. Damien Williams had 291, Kenyan Drake 245 and Jay Ajayi only had 17.
Dion Sims is no longer on the team, he had 57 snaps. Same for Jason Jones with his 68. And Earl Mitchell who had 62. Zach Vigil had 95.
Special Teams Stat leaders:
Michael Thomas and Mike Hull both tied at 19 for most total tackles. This places them both tied 2nd overall in the league behind Patriots player Nate Ebner with 22.
Michael Thomas leads the team and the league with 16 solo tackles.
Mike Hull leads the team and ties for first overall in the league for assisted tackles with 7.
Jakeem Grant led the team/league with 4 fumble recoveries. Of course this is due to him fumbling having only lost one. Just for reference sake Devin Hester Sr. is next on the list with 3. Even in what is probably his last season at the age of 34 it shows it’s no easy task holding on to the ball at times while serving punt return duties.
If things pan out for the better, perhaps Grant can someday have more productive stats in comparison to Hester’s. Grant had 114 ST snaps and there is talk of him having a somewhat greater role on offense. Team leader stats provided by Team Rankings.
Mike Pouncey had more special teams snaps (25) than Dallas Thomas (3), Billy Turner (15) and Jamil Douglas (1) combined (19).
As much heat as Leonte Carroo has drawn recently he did play 96 ST snaps. Stats provided by Pro Football Reference.
Writing this piece makes it even more evident to me the lack of individual special teams stats readily available on the Internets. (for free) But also a reminder of the importance of the often forgotten special teams unit.