Pre-Camp Analysis: Special Teams

As we keep getting closer to the 2007 training camp, we break down the Dolphins position by position, analyzing what they did in the offseason and what to expect in the upcoming season. We conclude our series with a look at the special teams.

Who's new: K Jay Feely (UFA, N.Y. Giants), P Brandon Fields (draft), P Ryan Flinn (free agent), K Matt Prater (free agent), KR Ted Ginn Jr. (draft)

Who's gone: K Olindo Mare (trade, New Orleans), P Donnie Jones (RFA, St. Louis), KR Wes Welker (trade, New England)

Who's back: LS John Denney

What happened in the offseason: There was a pretty housecleaning among the special teams and it wasn't limited to kickers and returners. Also gone are special teams mainstays Travis Minor, Sammy Morris and Darian Barnes, all of whom left as unrestricted free agents. The departure of Olindo Mare wasn't all that shocking considering his inconsistency on field goals in recent years. It was a little more surprising to see punter Donnie Jones leave, but the Dolphins simply felt the Rams were offering him too much money to match their offer sheet. As for Welker, we already discussed his trade in the wide receiver segment, but let us reiterate that the Dolphins got a great return in the trade.

What to expect: What we expect is the Dolphins finally having a kick return who will bring some excitement. That's not meant as a knock to Welker, who did produce some big returns during his time in Miami. But the truth is the Dolphins haven't had a big-play guy back there, someone who's always a threat to go the distance, in forever. In the kicking game, the Dolphins upgraded on field goals with Feely, although they will miss Mare's kickoffs. As for the punter position, roookie Brandon Fields has a bigger leg than Jones, but it remains to be seen whether he can work some mechanical flaws.

What we think: The Chicago Bears showed last year what a devastating kick returner can mean. Now, we're not saying Ted Ginn Jr. is going to do what Devin Hester did last year, but we'll bet his returning will be good for at least one victory this season. That's a great luxury to have. Just because of that, it's impossible to say the Dolphins aren't better on special teams. Also, for all the good work Mare did in his 10 seasons in MIami, he really had become too inconsistent in recent years, so signing Feely made a lot of sense.


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Alain Poupart is the Associate Editor of Dolphin Digest and DolphinDigest.com. To read him every day, visit DolphinDigest.com and become a Miami Dolphins insider.