2004 Season Review: Specialists

With the Dolphins' dismal 2004 season now over, we take a look back with a position-by-position evaluation as well as a look forward to what the offseason might bring. Today we examine the specialists.

Overview

The Dolphins special teams have been pretty consistent in recent years, with the coverage usually good but the returning less than stellar. The kicking has been mixed, with Matt Turk and Olindo Mare both a little up-and-down. By those standards, the 2004 season was pretty impressive for the kicking game. The coverage, led by Brendon Ayanbadejo, was very good; newcomer Wes Welker finally gave the Dolphins some punch in the return game; and Matt Turk had a good year in terms of his net average. The placekicking? Well, that was quite an adventure after Mare injured a calf and the Dolphins had to wind up using four different kickers, including Welker.

Olindo Mare: We'll start with the aforementioned Mare. When he wasn't injured, Mare was pretty good. But Mare used to be better than pretty good, and he's getting paid to be better than pretty good.

Matt Bryant: He did a solid job as a replacement for Mare before being injured himself.

Bill Gramatica: Called upon with both Mare and Bryant sidelined, Gramatica had a bad breakdown when he missed an extra point in the game against Arizona, which the Dolphins lost by one point.

Matt Turk: As mentioned, he was among the AFC leaders in net average, which is a credit to his hang time. The only major flaw in his game is he never seems to deliver the really big kick when the Dolphins are backed up in their own territory.

Wes Welker: Talk about a great find. We said all year the only thing this guy was lacking as a kick returner was big-play ability, but then he returns a punt 71 yards against New England and then breaks a 15-year Dolphins drought with a kickoff return for a touchdown in the finale at Baltimore.

Ed Perry: Among the best long-snappers in the game, Perry again was totally reliable in 2004, although he did have one snap that was slightly off the mark at New England, and that threw off Turk's timing and led to his ill-fated decision to run with the ball despite the fact he could have gotten the punt away.

Looking ahead

Among the four primary specialists, not counting special teams cover guys, Perry is the only one scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. You have to figure the Dolphins will try to re-sign him, but who knows what Nick Saban has in mind? Turk and Welker figure to be back in their respective roles, but Mare's salary of over $1 million might make him a candidate for a restructuring. When Mare was at his best, a team could justify spending that kind of money on a kicker, but that hasn't been the case with Mare for two-three years.


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