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Dolphins Training Camp, Day 11: Is there a kicker competition brewing in Miami?

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For those who play the Madden NFL series, "Happy Maddenoliday!"  The game was released at 12:01 am today.

There was only one practice on Thursday following Wednesday's "double" that included a practice that ended around 9:30 pm.  Players were allowed to "sleep in" on Thursday, not having to report to the facility until 10:30 am for their 3 pm practice - rather than the usual 6:30 am reporting time. So let's talk about some of Thursday's developments.

IS DC$ NO LONGER A LOCK?
Last offseason, rookie Dan Carpenter won the job as team's kicker - beating out veteran Jay Feely.  He went on to have a very solid season, connecting on 21 of 25 field goals - including a franchise rookie record of 14 consecutive makes.  Meanwhile, fellow rookie Connor Barth was in Kansas City losing a kicking competition to Nick Novack.  However, in late October, the Chiefs re-signed Barth to kick for them.  During that time, Barth connected on 10 of 12 field goals.

The Chiefs, however, drafted heralded rookie kicker Ryan Succop in April and waived Barth late last month.  The Dolphins, entering camp with just one kicker, signed Barth to provide a little pressure to "DC$" - read "D.C. money" (our nickname for Carpenter that was created last year during his streak).  Little did we know, this might actually be a training camp battle after all.

On Thursday, Carpenter missed from 42 and 45 while Barth drilled both of his kicks from the same distances.  However, Carpenter has been out-kicking Barth prior to today's activities.  But Barth was signed by the Dolphins following Carpenter's miss in Saturday's scrimmage from 35 yards.  He did later hit a 40 yarder during the scrimmage, though.

But one thing this coaching staff doesn't like is missed field goals.  Jay Feely went through a rough patch last training camp and was promptly handed his walking papers.  At that time, too, Carpenter was connecting on everything.  But he's been a little shaky this year in camp.

Of course, Carpenter has proven to be reliable in actual games.  He connected on the game-winning 38 yard field goal with under a minute left to defeat the Raiders last year.  He also connected on his only 50 yard field goal attempt in '08.  All told, DC$ was 10 of 14 from beyond 40 yards.  Barth was just 1 of 2.  Barth also missed a field goal from under 40 yards in 2008 while Carpenter was perfect.

While I don't think Carpenter is a lock anymore to make the team, I'm pretty confident he will indeed outlast Barth on the roster.  And it's not just that he's proven to be able to kick in REAL games.  He also has a longer leg on kickoffs.  Last year, 9.3% of Carpenter's kickoffs went for touchbacks.  Meanwhile, only 8.4% of Barth's kickoffs went for touchbacks.  But more telling is the average distance of kickoffs for each kicker.  Carpenter averaged 64.1 yards per kick.  Barth averaged only 58.6 yards.  While there are variable factors that influence each player's kicks (weather, wind, stadium, etc...), that separation is nothing to quickly dismiss.

So while I do think Carpenter will have to get his act together in a hurry, I fully expect DC$ to remain the Dolphins' kicker - despite ths little rough patch of his.

QUICK QB UPDATE
At the risk of starting another "CP vs CH" debate, I did want to talk about the quarterback play because a lot of Thursday's practice reports centered on QB play.  And for Henne, things didn't go very well.  They weren't terrible, either.

Working with the first team offense and against the second team defense during the two-minute drill, Henne completed just 2 of 8 passes and failed to get his team in the endzone.  Here was the sequence of events during that stretch, according to various reports.  First two passes were incomplete, including an overthrow of an open Davone Bess.  But he follows that up with a "nice throw" to Bess for a completion.  The next pass is incomplete, followed by another "nice pass" to Greg Camarillo.  He finishes up with four consecutive incompletions, though the last one wasn't his fault as Cameron Wake was applying pressure.

The Palm Beach Post observes that Henne "seemed to make too many difficult throws toward the end zone, including a pair wheel routes to Pat Cobbs.  Those required impeccable timing, rather than relying on his receivers get open and make the easier throw."  You have to wonder if perhaps Henne is trying too hard to impress by making tough throws rather than just taking what is given to him.  But without actually being there, we can't know for sure.  We'll just have to wait until Monday night to make any kind of sense out of this at this particular point.

Meanwhile, Chad Pennington was "put on a clinic" according to the Miami Herald during 11-on-11 3rd down drills.  Third and 8?  Completion to Davone Bess.  Third and 7?  Completion to Greg Camarillo.  Third and 5?  Back to Bess for a completion.  Third and 2?  A completion to Ricky Williams in the flat, just beyond the reach of Charlie Anderson.  If not for a blitz up the middle by Channing Crowder which resulted in a sack when Pennington tripped, he would have had a perfect 100% 3rd down conversion rate.  As it stood, Pennington was 4 of 4 and converted 80% of the third downs.  Not too shabby.

Chad Henne did lead the second team offense to 40% (2 of 5) conversion rate in the same drill - which is impressive in itself working with the second team offense (particularly the second team OL).

QUICK HITS
Some other thoughts:

  • It seems as though the pass rush is really starting to come around.  Dolphin blitzers are getting to the quarterback - with Crowder, Anderson, Wake, Jason Taylor, Erik Walden, Nate Jones, and Yeremiah Bell recording sacks.  The PBP reports that Anderson, in fact, is really starting to come on.  Perhaps he can make this team afterall.  But is there room for both Anderson and Walden?
  • Reggie Torbor also making some plays now - something he rarely did when he had the opporunity last season.
  • Maybe Pennington has improved his arm strength.  Here's a word-for-word quote of a tweet by Omar Kelly - the best beat writer in South Florida: "WR Ted Ginn Jr. smoked Sean Smith on what would have been a deep touchdown pass from Chad Pennington. Ball on a rope 40 yards in air."
  • Channing Crowder has been impressing in coverage all camp long.  That's a very good sign for a guy not known as a coverage LB.
  • According to the Herald, Donald Thomas received "significant snaps with the first team offense" during the 3rd down work.
  • Lionel Dotson proving to be one of the defensive linemen who is consistently getting pressure on the QB.  Can't say the same about Kendall Langford, Phillip Merling, Randy Starks, or Tony McDaniel.

UP NEXT
Two practices on Friday, at 9 am and 5 pm.  Then the Dolphins have a public practice at 10:15 on Saturday followed by a session at 2 pm which is closed to the public.  Sunday will be walk-through day for their preseason opener on Monday night against the Jaguars.