The Dolphins selected rookie Caleb Sturgis over veteran Dan Carpenter for his potential to provide them with a consistent long-distance threat in the kicking game.
Sturgis watched Carpenter boot a game-winning field goal for Buffalo the first time the Dolphins played the Bills in October resulting on one of the team’s costliest defeats this season.
And while Sturgis has improved since a stretch that coincided roughly around the time of that defeat, it’s Carpenter that’s been one of the league’s most consistent kickers.
“There are a lot of us that wish we had a better game, and we let that one slip away,” Sturgis said. “I definitely didn’t hit the goals I’d want to at this point in the season.”
Carpenter is ranked ahead of Sturgis in field goals made and accuracy this season.
Carpenter, who has made 27 of 30 field goal attempts this season and is perfect from under 40 yards, ranks eighth in the NFL in field goals made. Sturgis is 26 of 34 and ranks 11th. In field-goal percentage, Carpenter ranks 11th and Sturgis ranks 27th.
On kickoffs, Sturgis has been slightly better with 36 touchbacks in 71 attempts. Carpenter has 33 touchbacks in 72 attempts. Sturgis’ kickoff average is also only slightly higher than Carpenter’s at 66.4 to 66.0.
Sturgis, however, is treating Sunday’s crucial rematch against the Bills, and Carpenter, as another chance to prove to his team it made the right choice.
“At this point, though it’s a two-game season and you put that stuff behind you and really just have to win this game,” Sturgis said. “I have to go out there and in whatever situation I’m put in I have to make the field goal or extra point to put my team in position to win.”
Following a tough 57-yard miss with the game on the line against the Ravens on Oct. 6, Sturgis made only one of his next six field goals over the next two games the first being the home loss to the Bills Oct. 20. Carpenter went 3 for 3 in that game.
Against the Patriots the following week, Sturgis missed two field goals that could have helped the Dolphins halt New England’s 27-17 comeback win.
Sturgis recovered Oct. 31 against the Bengals making a 44-yard field goal at the end of regulation giving the Dolphins a chance to win the game in overtime. Sturgis proceeded to make nine consecutive field goals.
“It was only very minor adjustments I needed to make really,” Sturgis said.
From 50 yards or more, Sturgis has struggled making only one from that range in five attempts since October and is 2 of 6 overall.
Sturgis is 6 of 8 overall during the Dolphins’ three-game winning streak.
“I wouldn’t categorize it as pressure [to prove myself], but it’s a constant in this job,” Sturgis said. “I feel very fortunate they wanted me and to have one of the 32 kicking jobs in the NFL. I want to continually impress them and let them know they made the right decision.”
This and that• Punter Brandon Fields was selected as the team’s nominee for this year’s Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award given annually to honor a player’s volunteer and charity work as well as his excellence on the field.
Three former Dolphins have won the award — Dwight Stephenson (1985), Dan Marino (1998) and Jason Taylor (2007).
“It’s a real tribute to him,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “He makes a lot of sacrifices with his time. He and his wife, Katie, do so much in the community.”• Long snapper John Denney was the only player missing at Friday’s practice with an undisclosed illness, but was later listed as probable on the Dolphins injury report.
Brent Grimes (groin) and Daniel Thomas (ankle) each participated in individual drills. Thomas was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.
Grimes, Nolan Carroll (knee), Paul Soliai (ankle), Chris Clemons (hamstring/knee), Jamar Taylor (hamstring), Reshad Jones (groin), Olivier Vernon (ankle) were all listed as probable.