Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi knew he’d get questions Thursday about kick returner Jakeem Grant and kicker Andrew Franks after coaching decisions Sunday suggested a lack of confidence in each.
That’s not the case with either player, Rizzi insisted, although he acknowledged that Grant’s four mishandled returns in the last three games is “certainly cause for concern.”
Grant didn’t return another punt Sunday after his latest fumble; Jarvis Landry replaced him.
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But Rizzi said Grant “definitely will be back there again,” and likened his rookie’s struggles to those of potential Hall of Famer Devin Hester, who had eight fumbles in his first NFL season and seven more in Year 2.
“It's one of those things, it's a learning process,” Rizzi said. “One of the hardest things to do in football is go back there and return a punt -- judge it and field it and make good decisions. Again, we're going to keep working with him. We know, it's obvious what he can do with the ball in his hands. He's already proven that to everybody. I don't think there's anybody who can deny the fact that when he's got the ball in his hands, he's an electric guy. He can make people miss and he can make big plays.”
Rizzi added: “We've got to get him better. We've got to improve on it. But he will be back there, no doubt about it.”
As for Franks, the Dolphins’ second-year kicker? Rizzi said the choice to not have Franks attempt a 53-yard field goal with the Dolphins up 17-14 midway through the fourth quarter Sunday was not an indictment of his player’s abilities.
Rather, Rizzi said it was a game-management decision. Teams have made roughly half of kicks of that length this year, Rizzi said, and the Dolphins didn’t see the benefit of going up six worth the cost of potentially flipping the field for San Francisco . However, if the game was tied or the field goal would have put Miami up two scores, Franks would have attempted the kick.
The Dolphins expected Matt Darr to pin San Francisco inside the 10 (he ultimately punted it into the end zone) and make the Niners go the length of the field -- a tall task, considering they had only scored on six of 41 drives of 80 yards or more, Rizzi added.