Like all NFL kickers who have displayed shaky accuracy, Caleb Sturgis stands at risk, no longer in position to afford another season like the past two.
He ranked 29th and 28th in field-goal percentage his first two seasons, and his performance has been uneven on long kicks in training camp. On Wednesday, he made two field goals from 46 yards but missed from 44 (off the upright) and came up short from 52.
He has a challenger in camp, Andrew Franks, a rookie from Division III Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, and special-teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said Wednesday that Franks “is going to get an opportunity in games. It’s an open competition. We’re going to look at the whole body of work at the end of camp and make a decision.”
Though Rizzi didn’t say this, Sturgis remains the favorite, partly because Franks also has been inconsistent on field goals, both in college and during training camp.
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“The biggest thing with Sturg is consistency,” Rizzi said, adding that Sturgis is healthy after injuring his groin in a team-organized kickball game in June.
“We’ve got to keep him healthy, No. 1. With the kicker, it’s much more tangible than any other position. You’ve got to put it through those yellow posts and do it consistently. He’s had a good start. His warmups are looking more and more like the old Caleb. I’ve been very encouraged.”
What makes the Dolphins want to make it work with Sturgis?
“We still think he’s the same guy we drafted, a very talented guy,” Rizzi said.
Sturgis made 76.5 percent of his field goals as a rookie and 78.4 percent last season. “You’re always shooting to be above 90 percent overall,” Rizzi said.
Sturgis was 8 for 10 on field goals from 40 to 49 yards as a rookie, 6 for 10 last year. “Between 40 and 50, if you’re 85 percent and up, that’s a realistic goal,” Rizzi said.
Over 50 yards, he’s 6 for 13 in his career.
As for Franks, Rizzi said he “has an NFL leg. Going to a Division III school, he kind of coached himself for four years. He did kickoffs, field goals, punts. He never got great at one of them. He was good at all of them. Now we’re trying to limit him to field goals and kickoffs. He’s got a big leg as long as his consistency stays [up].”
Rizzi said Jarvis Landry is the front-runner to keep the punt- and kickoff-return jobs. Landry ranked fourth in the NFL in kick-return average last season and 14th on punts.
“There’s many starters in the NFL that are returners, maybe don’t do both, maybe [do] one,” Rizzi said. “We have to decide down the road what the formula is going to be. We’re trying to develop a pool of guys and make a decision from there.”
Those options include LaMichael James, Kenny Stills, Bobby McCain, Brent Grimes and roster long-shot Christion Jones.
▪ Koa Misi left practice early with a leg issue, but linebackers coach Mark Duffner said: “I think he’ll be fine.”
Kelvin Sheppard and Chris McCain — who are competing for one starting linebacker job — both played on the first team with Jelani Jenkins in Misi’s absence.
▪ With a shoulder injury sidelining Dallas Thomas on Wednesday, Jamil Douglas took most of the first-team snaps at left guard, with Jeff Linkenbach also receiving some. Billy Turner played with the first team at right guard and was again manhandled by Ndamukong Suh on several plays.
“No one’s earned anything yet,” coach Joe Philbin said of the two guard openings.
▪ Receiver Kenny Stills (calf) missed his third practice in a row, and receiver LaRon Byrd (knee) also was sidelined. Defensive lineman Derrick Shelby sat out with a knee issue that isn’t considered serious.
▪ Ryan Tannehill continued to show much-improved touch on his deep ball, completing a 60-yard pass to Landry for a touchdown, beating Louis Delmas.
Can Landry be more of a deep threat this season?
“I think he’s got a chance to do that,” Philbin said. “He’s done some things outside. I think his natural home base is still inside, but he certainly has shown the ability.”