The best Dolphin this season at his job, the best at his position in franchise history, agrees with the numbers: this is the best season of his career.
“Definitely. I think I’ve made the most of the opportunities I’ve had,” Dolphins punter Brandon Fields said. “The guys in front of me have blocked well and have covered really well, too.”
Without benefit of a dome or high altitude, Fields leads the NFL with a 51.6 gross punting average and his 43.6 net average is second to New Orleans’ Thomas Morstead’s 45.2.
In the Dolphins’ 17-14 home win against St. Louis, Fields might’ve been the player of the game on a day the winds taunted kickers and punters.
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The Dolphins got outgained 462-192, but because Fields averaged a 50.3 net yards per punt, St. Louis spent much of the day essaying Sisyphus, continually being rolled back to the start.
The Rams began drives at their own 8-yard line; 18; 27; 23; 38; and 3. That last launch point was for the final, futile drive for a tying field goal.
“Very impressed with him. Very impressed,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “He’s had a big impact on our team. [I] love the way he prepares. I think he’s a hard worker. Again, not over stating the obvious, he has an extremely strong leg. He’s a pro. I’m real pleased with how he’s played. I think his ability to establish field position has been huge for us and will be as the season progresses.”
There’s a feel of continuation to this Fields’ season. Fields works with the same dependable long snapper, John Denney, the Dolphins have had for his entire career on punts and when Fields holds on kicker Dan Carpenters field goal and extra-point attempts.
Punters think of reliable long snappers the way celebrities do great hair dressers.
And, before 2012, Fields’ best season was 2011.
He set franchise records for most punts inside the 20 (32); net punting average in a season (41.1, raising his own record by 1.3 yards); gross punting average in a season (48.8, raising John Kidd’s record by 2.5 yards); and added to his record for career gross punting average (45.7).
That brought Fields into this season with an enhanced confidence, even more secure in his ability than before.
(The Dolphins thought so, too, signing him to an extension).
He described the difference as “The nervousness, the anxiety of trying to perform your best as opposed to believing ‘I’m going to do it, I’m going to get it done. I’m going to let it happen and it’s going to take care of itself’ instead of trying to make it happen.
“I always tell people punting and kicking are very similar to golf,” he continued. “You go out, grip and rip and try to smash it, chances are you may hit one straight down the middle, but you’ll start hitting them left and right as opposed to [using] that nice easy swing, letting your body come to the ball in rhythm, you’ll be a lot more consistent and hit the ball better.”