The Dolphins are sputtering for many reasons, but perhaps none bigger than this:
The big plays that fueled their 10-6 season last year have disappeared in 2017.
That is true on offense. It is true on defense.
And it is doubly true on special teams.
Miami’s longest kickoff return is 34 yards. The team has not had a punt return longer than 16.
The Dolphins rank in the bottom 10 in punt return yards (average of 6.4 per). And they have not come close to scoring in the kicking game.
“A little bit disappointing so far,” Dolphins coach special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said. “Statistically, obviously not really where we want to be. We'd like to be creating more opportunities for the offense.”
Rizzi added: “I was asked the question about, is one particular thing? Is it Jakeem [Grant]? It's not.”
Grant, now in his second year, has always been a fascination because of his game-changing speed. But that has not translated into production yet this season. Grant is tied with Ted Ginn for 21st in punt returns (6.0).
Rizzi acknowledges that there have been opportunities Grant has missed — untouched, he fell down on a well-blocked kick return Sunday against the Raiders — but the issues have not been limited to him.
“If you look at last week's game, it's a good example because we start the game, our first kick return, we actually have a really good return out to near the 30-yard line that got brought back because of a holding penalty,” Rizzi said. “It's been a little bit of a frustrating thing. Jakeem was battling a little bit of an ankle thing for a few games, and wasn't really 100 percent. Now I kind of feel like he's getting back to where he needs to be.”
That is why Rizzi is not planning to make a change — at this point. Grant will still share punt return duties with Jarvis Landry, and kickoff return responsibilities with Kenyan Drake and Senorise Perry.
“We all know what Jakeem's capable of doing,” Rizzi said. “I think sometimes we're looking to make the huge play and we're not really taking what the opponent is giving us. It's been a combination. Our effort's been there. Our execution has not. We've got to get a little better there.”