After the Dolphins decided to keep a rookie punter and a rookie kicker, Miami special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said another NFL coach texted him: “If I see you on the top of a tall building, I’ll know why.”
Rizzi smiled as he told that story on Monday, knowing the Dolphins are hardly panicked about keeping NFL neophytes at kicker (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Andrew Franks) and punter(University of Tennessee rookie Matt Darr).
“I’m extremely confident in both guys,” Rizzi said. “Neither has a rookie mentality. Both are more mature than that.
“The one thing you worry about a little bit with Franks is the environment. He hasn’t kicked in that environment. Darr has. He played in the SEC, in bigger stadiums than we’re playing in. Not as worried about him. [For Franks], it’s almost, ‘Thank goodness we played in four big stadiums already’ [in preseason].”
Rizzi said the decision to keep Franks over Caleb Sturgis was a “close call. … We felt we’re better off with Andrew.”
Among the factors that tilted the competition toward Franks: He generated more touchbacks on kickoffs (“we want to be better than what we were the last couple of years,” Rizzi said), and Franks’ ability to hit long field goals.
Besides making a 51-yarder in a preseason game, Franks nailed a 64-yarder in practice and hit a 56-yarder with “10 to 15” yards to spare, Rizzi said.
Franks, who was 3 for 3 on field goals in preseason, made only 37 of 56 field goals at RPI (16 of 25 last season), but Rizzi said that didn’t especially concern him because of circumstances — including some field-goal protection breakdowns and “some 57-yarders in 30-degree weather.”
Also, “we definitely saw a couple of things technique-wise on film that were fixable,” Rizzi said. “He was trying to drive the ball 30 yards past the goal post every time. We are trying to make him more of a refined kicker.”
Rizzi said Franks also benefited from spending time with longtime NFL kickers Phil Dawson and John Carney. Franks visited Dawson for three days in Texas this past offseason, and the Dolphins invited Carney to spend three days with the team during training camp.
“They saw some technique stuff plus the mental approach,” Rizzi said. “That was big.”
As for Darr beating out Brandon Fields, Rizzi liked Darr’s “overall approach and consistency. When he came here, he started hitting the ball well. We thought at some point, this guy was going to tail off — and he hasn’t.”
▪ Branden Albert, coming off knee surgery, remained non-committal about his availability for Sunday’s opener at Washington, but practiced fully again Monday and the team remains optimistic he will play. Joe Philbin said Albert “looked good” Monday.
▪ Albert’s presence is even more critical because backup left tackle Jason Fox remained sidelined Monday as he works his way back from a concussion.
▪ Receiver DeVante Parker, who played nine snaps in the preseason finale against Tampa Bay, said he expects to play Sunday. But offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said his week of practice would determine how much he’s incorporated into the game plan.
▪ Cornerback Jamar Taylor, who missed two weeks with a quadriceps injury, returned to practice and said he will play Sunday.
▪ Safety Louis Delmas, out with a torn ACL in his right knee for the second consecutive season, said he definitely will play in 2016. Delmas, on a one-year contract, will spend this season on injured reserve.
▪ Ndamukong Suh played 81 percent of the Lions’ defensive snaps last season — very high for a defensive tackle — and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle suggested the Dolphins will use him in a comparable way.
“As long as he’s playing at a high level, we’ll pick and choose when we want to give him some breaks,” said defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, adding he wants to play all of his defensive players early in the season.
▪ Quarterback Logan Thomas said he was surprised the Dolphins claimed him off waivers from Arizona. “This system’s pretty much foreign to me,” he said.
▪ The Dolphins filled out their practice squad by signing former University of Tennessee running back Rajion Neal and former Texas A&M receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu.
Neal was on the Packers’ practice squad last season and averaged 5.3 yards per carry for Green Bay this preseason. Nwachukwu was on the Texans’ practice squad the past two years. The Dolphins had interest in re-signing Mike Gillislee to the practice squad, but he opted to join the Falcons’ practice squad.
▪ Lazor said receiver Kenny Stills, who played behind Rishard Matthews in the third preseason game, has come on strong since returning from a calf injury: “I think we’re seeing everything that we had hoped that we’d see when he came here.”