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Sturgis competing against kickers not in camp

Darren Rizzi spent a few minutes talking about the grand level of competition on his special teams this year -- "more competition than I've probably had in any of my six years here," he said -- and, suddenly, it dawned on me that at perhaps the most important spots there really seems to be no competition at all.

Let's face it, punter Brandon Fields has no competitor in camp. Long snapper John Denney has no competitor in camp -- other than some backups that are working at long snapping.

Kicker Caleb Sturgis has no competitor in training camp.

And while the lack of competition for the first two is totally understandable because Fields and Denney are at or near the top of their games among NFL peers, there's Sturgis.

As a rookie in 2013 he was not at the top of his game. His 76.5 percent success rate on field goals was 29th best in the NFL. Sturgis missed eight of his 34 attempts, including four from 30-49 yards. From 50-plus yards, Sturgis was not very good at all, connecting on only 3-of-7.

By comparison, Dan Carpenter, who was cut in training camp, connected on 4-of-6 from 50-plus yards and was 16-of-17 from 30-49 yards.

So Sturgis seems like he could probably use some competition because, well, isn't that what Rizzi is preaching?

Well, it seems Sturgis does have competition, according to the Dolphins special team coordinator.

"I think the specialist is kind of a different deal," Rizzi said. "There's always competition there. It just may not be in the building. There's competition around the league. We're always evaluating the specialist's position.

"That's a fluid situation. Although we may not have anyone here, it's always a fluid situation. We may not have a body here in camp doing it, but ... I will say this, I have a lot of confidence in Caleb Sturgis. He's a quality player. But a specialist is a little different than everywhere else. It really is.

"You don't necessarily have to have a body in camp for those guys to feel pressure."

I think what Rizzi is saying is if Sturgis struggles, GM Dennis Hickey will be calling available kickers.

Sturgis had a drought midway through the '13 season in which he missed four of five field goals. Rizzi noted the rookie was good early in the year and good late in the year but the lull in the middle made for a "roller coaster ride" that is not satisfactory.

"You have to be more consistent and he knows that," Rizzi said. "You go out there for one play and you have to get it down, bottom line."

To make the point, Rizzi said he's not asking Sturgis to kick a series of field goals in practice this year. Indeed, the kicker is getting one chance to make his kicks and he either does or does not perform -- much the same way it happens in a game.

"It's make or miss," Rizzi said. "You don't get a second chance."

I think it is time to pay attention to Caleb Sturgis's attempts in camp from this point forward. Because he's got a ton of guys around the NFL who apparently are competing with him.

  

More competition than I've probably had in any of my six years here,"

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