One of Tony Sparano's pet peeves this preseason has been cutting down on hidden yardage because, to the Dolphins coach, hidden yardage is a dirty secret that gets your NFL team beat.
Well, this preseason the Dolphins special teams have been yielding hidden yardage like that was the assignment or goal. It's as if the units have been trying to give away hidden yards. And last night against the New Orleans Saints, the hidden yards came out in the open for everyone to see when Miami's special teams gave up a 55 yard punt return touchdown.
The problem is there was nothing shocking or surprising about Rod Harper's TD return that cut through the heart of the Miami coverage team. We've seen it before and way too many times.
Even during this undefeated preseason, the Miami special teams, well, bombed.
Versus Jacksonville: Chris Williams muffs a punt but recovers ... Vontae Davis costs the team 15 yards for interference on a fair catch ... Davis is called for a personal foul on another punt return, costing the team 13 yards on a half-the-distance-to-goal walkoff.
Versus Carolina: Captain Munnerlyn returns a punt 58 yards for the Panthers ... Williams fumbles a punt that Carolina recovers and eventually turns into points ... The fumble has a bright side in that it makes everyone forget the illegal block above the waist the Dolphins commit on the same play ... There was also a 15-yard personal foul penalty on a kickoff.
Versus Tampa Bay: Clifton Smith returns a punt 30 yards for the Bucs ... The Dolphins partially block a punt on Tampa Bay's first possession but Charlie Anderson fumbles the loose ball and Tampa recovers, using the new offensive life to complete a scoring drive ... Reggie Torbor is flagged for holding on a punt ... Courtney Bryan also muffs punt, but at least has the presence to bat the loose ball out of bounds so Miami can retain possession.
What's the expression? It's always something.
That's seemingly the mantra for Miami's special teams unit this preseason. And that all comes even after the Dolphins have spent extra time on special teams during practices, certainly more than any Miami team I've ever covered.
The Dolphins are not getting enough bang for their practice time buck. Stupid penalties have to stop. They cannot continue to give up at least one long punt return every game. The fumbling and bumbling need to stop, too.
So far, Sparano has deflected attention away from his coaching staff and made the point the problems belong to players. A guy is in perfect position to make a tackle but doesn't. Three guys blow out of their lanes. One guy makes a bonehead decision. Somebody has an itch he has to scratch at the precise moment the ball is coming to him.
It's always something.
Well, when one has these problems consistently, the coach must shoulder responsibility as well. Special teams coordinator John Bonamego is by all accounts a very well prepared coach. He knows what he wants and needs to accomplish.
But despite that preparation, his special teams stink.
So those same special teams must correct all its issues immediately because coaches also are evaluated during the preseason and some around the league that haven't met standards have been fired or re-assigned.
And this preseason, Bonamego's special teams simply haven't met standards.