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Twenty Dolphins nuggets on Labor Day: Lazor, Coyle, Rizzi opine; Injuries; The book on Franks

### After the Dolphins decided to keep a rookie punter and a rookie kicker, Miami special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi received a couple of amusing text messages from other special teams coaches in the league.

One said: “If I see you on the top of a tall building, I’ll know why,” Rizzi recalled, smiling, Monday.

But the Dolphins are hardly panicked about keeping NFL neophytes at kicker (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Andrew Franks) and punter (University of Tennessee rookie Matt Darr).

“I’m extremely confident in both guys,” Rizzi said. “Neither has a rookie mentality. Both are more mature than that.

“The one thing you worry about a little bit with Franks is the environment. He hasn’t kicked in that environment. Darr has. He played in the SEC, in bigger stadiums than we’re playing in. Not as worried about him. [For Franks], it’s almost, ‘Thank goodness we played in four big stadiums already.’ I would be a little more concerned if this was his first time.

“I’m not as worried about him because he really has a maturity about him. He’s ahead of his years a little bit. Really smart guy academically but street smart, too. He’s a level headed guy. That will help him a lot.”

Rizzi said the decision to keep Franks over Caleb Sturgis was a “close call. It wasn’t a slam dunk. Caleb has a lot of talent. At the end of the day, we felt we’re better off with Andrew.”

### Among the factors that tilted the competition toward Franks: He generated more touchbacks on kickoffs (“we want to be better than what we were the last couple of years,” Rizzi said), and Franks’ ability to hit long field goals.

Besides making a 51-yarder in a preseason game, Franks nailed a 64-yarder in practice and hit a 56-yarder with “10 to 15” yards to spare, Rizzi said.

Franks made only 37 of 56 field goals at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (16 of 25 last season), but Rizzi said that didn’t especially concern him after examining the circumstances.  Franks for 3 for 3 on field goals in preseason.

“I kind of erased the first two years [at RPI],” Rizzi said. “Freshman and sophomore year he didn’t know what the heck he was doing. I focused more on the last two years.

“And why did he miss? There were some blocks, some protection stuff. There were some 57 yarders in 30 degree weather. There were some factors. I felt there were fixable things with a guy with that kind of leg. We definitely saw a couple of things technique wise on film that were fixable.

“It’s similar to golfing or major league hitting. Sometimes the littlest change can make the biggest difference. There were some things in his approach. He was trying to drive the ball 30 yards past the goal post every time. We are trying to make him more of a refined kicker. I’ve said to him many times, ‘You’re going to get the ball there. We’re not worried if it’s going to reach. We’ve got to make sure your technique is better.’”

### Rizzi said Franks also benefited considerably by spending time with longtime NFL kickers Phil Dawson and John Carney. Franks visited Dawson for three days in Texas this past offseason, and the Dolphins invited Carney to spend three days with the team during training camp.

“Those two experiences helped [Franks] more than anybody,” Rizzi said. “They saw some technique stuff plus the mental approach, the whole approach to the game. That was big with him. He’s not a peak and valley guy. His reaction is the same.”

### As for Darr beating out Brandon Fields, Rizzi liked Darr’s “overall approach and consistency. When he came here, he started hitting the ball well. We thought at some point, this guy was going to tail off and he hasn’t.”

### A smiling Branden Albert, coming off knee surgery, remained non-committal about his availability for Sunday but he again practiced fully and the team remains optimistic he will play. “If coach feels like I’m ready, I’m ready,” he said.

Joe Philbin said Albert “looked good” Monday and “is competing hard, getting his timing and rhythm back.”

### Albert’s presence is even more critical because backup left tackle Jason Fox remained sidelined Monday while he works his way back from a concussion. Albert, incidentally, switched jersey numbers, from 71 to 76, which he wore in Kansas City.

### Receiver DeVante Parker, who played nine snaps in the preseason finale against Tampa Bay, said he expects to play Sunday. But offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said his week of practice would determine how much he’s incorporated into the game plan.

"If he can go out and have a 100 percent practice and be full speed, then you can feel pretty good that he’s ready to do the kind of running that an NFL receiver needs to do in a game, but we just have to feel those things out,” Lazor said.

“There’s no one magic test. It’s a matter of putting all of those things together and the great thing will be if it just plays itself out on the practice field. If you walk off the practice field and he looks at us and says, ‘Man I felt great,’ and the coaches say, ‘Yeah, you looked great.’ Well, then that’s a good sign. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

### Cornerback Jamar Taylor, who missed two weeks with a quadriceps injury, returned to practice and has said he will play Sunday at Washington.

### Safety Louis Delmas, out with a torn ACL in his right knee for the second consecutive season, said he definitely will play in 2016. Delmas, on a one-year contract, will spend this season on injured reserve.

### Ndamukong Suh played 81 percent of the Lions’ defensive snaps last season --- very high for a defensive tackle – and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle suggested the Dolphins will use him in a comparable way.

“As long as he’s playing at a high level, we’ll pick and choose when we want to give him some breaks,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said.

### Quarterback Logan Thomas said he was surprised the Dolphins claimed him off waivers on Sunday. “This system’s pretty much foreign to me,” he said of the Dolphins’ offense.

### The Dolphins filled out their practice squad by signing former University of Tennessee running back Rajion Neal and former Texas A&M receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu.

Neal was on the Packers’ practice squad last season and averaged 5.3 yards per carry for Green Bay this preseason. Nwachukwu, who played with Ryan Tannehill at Texas A&M, caught 19 touchdowns in college and was on the Texans’ practice squad the past two years.

### The Dolphins had interest in re-signing Mike Gillislee to the practice squad, but he opted to join the Falcons’ practice squad.

### How do the Dolphins allocate snaps to five NFL-caliber receivers?

“There are going to be some weeks where you come out of the game and you say, ‘Gosh, we didn’t get the ball to this guy enough,’ or a guy might feel that,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “It’s just going to happen and we’ve got to try and put each guy in a position to do the things that he does best.

“Sometimes it’s just going to be whose turn is it in the rotation and that’s just how it works out. We’ll spend a lot of time deciding how do we best win this game because really all that matters is winning this game.”

### Lazor, on Kenny Stills, who has been playing behind Rishard Matthews since returning from injury: “With Kenny missing some time, it leaves some question marks, but I thought he really worked his tail off to get back to be in shape. I think we’re seeing everything that we had hoped that we’d see when he came here."

### Coyle has 27 players on defense (a few assuredly will be inactive), and Coyle said he wants to use all of them early in the season:

“I believe you need to utilize the compliment of players that you have in terms of getting guys roles that they can help you win with, but, at the same time, realizing that, even though you’re in shape to start the season, your football shape actually grows throughout the early part of the season because none of these guys have lined up in a game and played 65-70 plays.”

### Coyle said that approach helped in the opener against New England last season:

“They practice every day and I think we do a great job of conditioning with them in practice, but it’s different when you’re going out there playing a game, like was evidenced last year when we opened with New England. I thought our guys were in great shape, we kind of got better as the game went on, but certainly the fact that we had multiple guys playing like Chris McCain in that game helped us come up with some big plays…. We’ve got a number of guys at the linebacker spot and we’re going to play them.”

### The Dolphins don’t want their players underestimating Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who will start against Miami on Sunday. He’s 2-7 as a starter.

“You are dealing with a guy that has shown improvement,” Coyle said. “He’s been accurate in preseason. Their offense in preseason has been very effective – second in the league in rushing, second in third down.”

### Can Lazor feel good about his offensive line? “Well, I think there are concerns when you have unknowns. I am hoping that we answered most of those. The best teams I have been on typically have had the same five guys play the majority if not all of the games, maybe not every snap. That’s just a fact in football.”

### Lazor said he’s giving Tannehill “a pretty good amount of input. I thought it grew as the year went on last year. One of the really helpful things for me at the end of every game week is to ask the quarterbacks their favorite plays and I explained to them the very first time that we did it, it doesn’t mean that these will be the first plays called. I think that he would probably tell you that a good portion of them tend to find their way in early.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... If you missed our last post on Labor Day weekend, check it out to see what nine NFL TV analysts told us they expect from the Dolphins.

 

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