TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: SPECIALISTS

With the start of training camp, we break down every position, with its strengths and weaknesses, as well as which players figure to be on the 53-man roster. What follows is a look at the specialists.

The Dolphins special teams have been solid — sometimes even very good — for many years, but the team could use the emerge of a dynamite kick returner at some point.

The Dolphins haven't had a kickoff return for a touchdown since 1989, which is an awfully long drought. Chris Chambers showed enough promise last year to make everybody think it was a matter of time before he went the distance, but Chambers probably won't be returning kickoffs anymore.

The reason is that he's just too important to the offense to take a chance on him getting hurt returning a kick.

The truth is that training camp opened without a clear-cut No. 1 kickoff returner.

Brock Marion has done some kickoff returning in the past, and has had some long returns. But he's also a starter, and that makes him less than the ideal choice.

Rookie Sam Simmons returns some kickoffs at Northwestern, and he figures to get a look in that role during the preseason. If he can break a couple of long ones, that might be his ticket to a roster spot.

The Dolphins have more ideal candidates in terms of punt returners, namely Simmons and Jeff Ogden. Ogden handled the role for most of last season but he wasn't as sure-handed as before and needs to get that straightened out.

At his best, Ogden is a very good punt returner, and his return for a touchdown against Green Bay two years ago was the biggest play in that game.

Simmons was a much better punt returner than kickoff returner in college, and he will get a look returning punts in the preseason.

When it comes to their kickers, the Dolphins are in fine shape with Olindo Mare and Mark Royals.

Mare, simply put, is one of the best kickers in the NFL — if not the best. He's very accurate, has a strong let and executes the onside kick better than anyone.

As for Royals, he won't put up a big average, but his value comes from the fact he's very good at directional kicking and usually has good hang time.

Rookie free agent Casey Roussel has promise, but it's a long shot he could beat out Royals.


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