Midseason marks: Special teams

The Dolphins arrived at the halfway point of the 2005 season with a 3-5 record, which is what a lot of people expected before things got under way. Of course, the record now seems a little disappointing after the Dolphins started off 2-1 with victories over playoff hopefuls Denver and Carolina. We conclude our look at the Dolphins' performance in the first half of the season by examining the special teams.

KICKERS

Olindo Mare looks like he's back. After a couple of sub-par seasons, Mare made 13 of 15 field goals in the first half of 2006 and one of the misses came after a bad snap. In terms of kickoffs, Mare has been excellent for several years now, and that certainly didn't change this season. Donnie Jones, meanwhile, leads the NFL in net punting average, which should tell you all you need to know about his work. He was a bit inconsistent early in the season but has gotten better and better every week. Grade: A-

RETURNERS

You might as well make this returner because Wes Welker handle both punt and kickoff returns for the Dolphins. His work has been good and not-so-good. On punt returns, Welker is among the NFL leaders with a 11.4-yard average and he has a couple of long returns, including a 47-yarder against Kansas City. But Welker hasn't done much on kickoff returns with a disappointing 20.9 average and a long of only 28 yards. Grade: B

LONG-SNAPPER

There were a lot of eyebrows raised when Nick Saban released veteran Ed Perry in favor of rookie John Denney, and it didn't help when Denney fired off a bad snap on a field goal attempt against the Jets and later on a punt against Buffalo. Saban has praised Denney's long-term outlook on a few occasions and one can only hope he's right because so far sticking with Perry would have been the wise choice -- for this year at least.

COVERAGE TEAMS

The Dolphins have done a tremendous job in punt coverage, allowing opponents only 4.4 yards per return, while the kickoff coverage team had one breakdown, a 53-yard return by Buffalo's Terrence McGee. Overall, the group has been solid. Grade: B


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