Competition at the kicker position could be brewing in South Florida.
Kicker is one of the most overlooked, yet extremely important positions in the NFL. Over the past decade, players like Adam Vinatieri, Justin Tucker, and Stephen Gostkowski have proved just how game-changing good kicking play can be. In just a few short seconds, a kick can be the difference between heartbreak and euphoria for fans, players, and coaches, and most people can speak to the fact that the moments leading up to an important Field goal can be the most nerve wracking of an entire football game.
Currently, the Dolphins employ Andrew Franks, and only Andrew Franks, at the kicker position. Last season, Franks made 16 of 21 field goals attempts. That’s good for a 76.2% success rate, placing him at 31st in the league for 2016. Normally, if a player ranks at the very bottom of the league at their respective position, they are at the very least fighting for their job. But that’s not the case with Franks, at least not yet.
The Dolphins currently have 89 players on their roster, meaning they can add one more before training camp if they would like to do so. They can also release players and sign new players at any time, so competition for Franks is still a possibility going forward, and something I believe the Dolphins should look for.
While field goal percentage is generally the most important aspect of a kicker’s game, I find it generally unfair to solely look at a single stat to determine the skill of a player, so let’s examine some of the context behind Andrew Franks’ performance during his two years with the Dolphins.
Franks had an 81.3% success rate in 2015 which was good for 31st in the league that year as well (would have been 24th in 2016). But that’s not the most troubling aspect of Franks’ production. Over the past two years, Miami’s coaching staff has asked Franks to kick just four field goals from beyond 50 yards, and he’s made two of them. To put that in perspective, Caleb Sturgis, the current Philadelphia Eagles kicker who the Dolphins released before signing Franks, made 4 of 6 field goals from beyond 50 yards in 2016 alone.
The fact that the Dolphins don’t trust Franks to kick from that far back means the team is leaving points on the board. It means that when the Dolphins offense stalls with a 4th-and-5 on the 38-yard line (which would require kicking a 55-yard field goal), instead of adding three points to their score, the team is forced to punt the ball away.
Side note: Franks also missed two field goals from under 30 yards last season, kicks that should be gimmes for kickers at the NFL level.
Now, I’m not saying the Dolphins should do away with Franks entirely. He performed well in critical moments during the latter half of last season, coming up with a game winning field goal in the rain against Arizona and a game tying field goal with time expiring in Buffalo. However, adding competition could only make the situation better. Not only would competition push Franks to get the best out of himself, but it would also give the Dolphins a second option should they choose to go in a different direction.
There’s a reason the Dolphins brought in Matt Haack to compete with Matt Darr at the punter position. The Dolphins even brought in long snapper Winston Chapman to compete with John Denney, the current longest tenured Dolphin, one of the most consistent players at his position in the NFL, and a Phinsider.com fan favorite. Competition simply brings out the best in everyone.
With the new culture in Miami advocating for zero entitlement and constant improvement in all players, there is no reason for Miami to not bring in a training camp opponent for Andrew Franks at one of the game’s most vital positions.