So who is Dan Carpenter?
Sure, he's now the Dolphins' starting kicker following the release of Jay Feely, despite coming off of a 21/23 FG season. And he's also the first Dolphins kicker since 2006 to make 2 field goals of longer than 40 yards in the preseason.
But let's learn about our new kicker, shall we?
Carpenter was more than just a kicker in high school at Helena High School in Montana. He lettered in football, basketball, and track. And as far as his football playing goes, Carpenter was a second-team All-State selection his senior year...as a wide receiver. That year, Carpenter totaled over 900 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. And as a kicker, Carpenter booted a 53-yard field goal as a senior in high school. That's fairly impressive.
But let's move on to the more relevant information. At the University of Montana, Carpenter was a career 72.8% kicker on field goals (75/103). But what's impressive is how he progressed and steadily got better and better. Carpenter was named an All-American by the Associated Press in both his junior and senior seasons. Over the course of those 2 seasons, Carpenter connected on 43 of 53 field goals (81%), including going 4 for 5 from beyond 50 yards (with a long of 54 yards). From over 40 yards during his final 2 seasons at Montana, Carpenter was 18 of 23 (78%). That's not overly impressive, but is definitely solid. When you factor in how he seems to progress and improve each year, I'm confident he'll be a reliable kicker from inside 50 yards - with the leg to connect on a majority of his 50+ FG attempts.
Perhaps more importantly, though, let's talk about kick-offs. Some people are wondering why the coaching staff was so happy with Carpenter's performance on Saturday night considering he didn't reach the endzone on his kick-offs frequently. But then, as one of you guys pointed out to me, we found out that Dan was told to practice angling his kick-offs rather than trying for touchbacks every time.
And truth be told, the kick-off could very well be one of the major reasons why Jay Feely is no longer a Dolphin. Last season, Feely averaged just 57.8 yards per kick-off, ranking him 34th among all kickers with at least 10 kick-offs. To put that average into perspective, a 58 yard kick-off means the opposing team's return man fields the ball at their own 12 yard line. That's unacceptable.
Looking at Carpenter's senior year at Montana, you'll see that he's far more consistent with his kick-offs. Last year, Carpenter kicked off 78 times for 5,006 yards. That's a 64.2 yard average per kick-off. Translating that to NFL standards, Carpenter's kick-off would have reached the opposing team's 6 yard line on average. That's much better and could possibly be the biggest reason why he has won the starting job and Feely is now searching for one.
That, and Carpenter likely won't be running his mouth to the media every chance he gets - unlike Feely.
So now the only question becomes: will Dan Carpenter be able to handle the starting job when he's in the spotlight and the pressure is on him?