The Miami Dolphins tore the walls and focused on rebuilding the franchise’s foundation when Brian Flores became head coach prior of the 2019 season.
Just one year into the “new era” of Dolphins football, a quarterback was drafted to lead the franchise and Miami started the year 8-4 for the first time since 2003. The season ended just short of a playoff birth with a record of 10-6 and three players were named to the Associated Press All-Pro teams.
Joining cornerback Xavien Howard and punt returner Jakeem Grant was Jason Sanders, who was about as dominant a kicker could be throughout Miami’s 2020 playoff pursuit.
Confidence was high each time Sanders stepped on the field and rightfully so, converting eight out of nine kicks from at least 50 yards with a season-long of 56. The 2018 seventh-round draft pick out of New Mexico finished with a field goal percentage of 92.3 and earned a new five-year $22 million deal that would keep him in Miami through the 2026 season.
Fast forward to 2022, the contract is the third-most expensive among all kickers. With that in mind, it seems that Sanders has been in a bit of a rut since signing the extension.
Sanders was virtually unstoppable on 50-yard field goal attempts in 2020 and in the 22 games since, that number plummetted to 25 percent, making just two of the last eight tries.
The fifth-year pro has made six out of eight total attempts this year, with both misses coming from at least 50 yards. Sanders missed the uprights in each of the last two weeks, which lead to touchdown drives from both the Bengals and the Jets.
It is important to note that Sanders is six out of six on kicks inside 50 yards, but many hoped to see a bounce-back year after connecting on a career-low 74 percent of kicks a year ago. Through five weeks, Sanders is making 75 percent of his field goals and has converted 13 out of 14 extra points. Sanders was 34 of 35 on extra points last season and a perfect 36 for 36 in 2020.
Miami ranked 15th in total points in 2020 and Sanders was a big reason why — scoring 144 of Miami’s 404 total points that year, which was the third-highest scoring season in franchise history.
Coach Mike McDaniel’s offense was off to a promising start this season, but injuries have quickly derailed the unit. Miami is averaging 16 points per game over the last two weeks — a major dip after averaging nearly 28 points throughout the first three weeks.
The Dolphins are battling some early-season turbulence and a bounceback from Sanders will most certainly help steady the ship.