Why the Dolphins Aren't Concerned About Jason Sanders and Why He Should Have Made the Pro Bowl

Miami Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders has two field goal misses in the past two games, more than he had in the first 12 games combined
By Alain Poupart ,

It's been easy to take Jason Sanders for granted this season, which is why it was almost shocking when he was wide left on a 52-yard field goal attempt against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday.

After all, it was the first time in nine tries this season the Miami Dolphins kicker had missed a field goal attempt of 50 yards and beyond, which truly is a remarkable achievement.

It's downright historic when it comes to the franchise.

You can start with the eight field goals of 50 yards or more, which not only is a Dolphins record but twice as many as the previous high of four, done by Olindo Mare in 2003 and Dan Carpenter in 2010.

And both Mare (2) and Carpenter (4) had more misses on those long kicks than Sanders.

So we certainly can understand Dolphins special teams coach Danny Crossman not being overly concerned that Sanders has missed a field goal attempt each of the past two games after missing only one in the first 12 games.

“His confidence hasn’t wavered," Crossman said. "And for me, if he’s hitting good balls — and the ball he missed on Sunday was a good ball. It faded a little bit left at the end, but as long as his operation is clean and he’s hitting good balls, we stay the course.”

With the miss against New England, Sanders now is 30-for-33 on the season and his success rate of 90.9 percent has fallen behind the team record of 91.3 shared by Jay Feely and Cody Parkey.

But it should be noted that when Feely and Parkey went 21-for-23 in 2007 and 2017, respectively, each made only one kick of at least 50 yards.

So this still, barring a late collapse, should be regarded as the greatest season ever for a Dolphins kicker.

Sanders also is having one of the best seasons for any NFL kicker in 2020, one that should have been rewarded with a Pro Bowl invitation.

Baltimore's Justin Tucker got the nod for the AFC squad, and it wasn't overly surprising because he's having a good season and his reputation (therefore additional votes when there's doubt) is well established from his previous four Pro Bowl nods. It also helped Tucker that he kicked a 55-yard game-winning field goal against the Cleveland Browns four days before players and coaches cast their votes for the Pro Bowl.

But Sanders is having a better season than Tucker. Period.

In fact, Younghoe Koo of the Atlanta Falcons — Dolphins fans might remember him for his missed last-second attempt that gave Miami a 19-17 victory against the Chargers in the 2017 opener — might be the only kicker clearly having a superior year than that of Sanders.

Koo is 35-for-36 on field goal attempts, including a perfect 8-for-8 from 50 or beyond.

But when it comes to Tucker, he's 23-for-26 on field goal attempts, with a 3-for-5 mark on kicks from 50 or beyond.

Ironically, both Tucker and Sanders missed a field goal attempt Sunday AFTER the Pro Bowl ballots had been turned in, but it also should be noted that Sanders' two misses before Sunday were from 45 and 47 yards, while Tucker had missed from 36 and 61 yards (at the end of the first half against Cincinnati in Week 5).

In terms of kicking off, Sanders has the advantage in the most important stat of net kickoff average (kickoff length minus return) at 44.28 (fifth in the NFL) compared to Tucker's 43.75 (seventh in the NFL).

Sanders, of course, won AFC Special Teams Player of the Month honors in both October and November, while Tucker hasn't won that award this year.

This, plain and simple, was one of the many examples we see every year of a player getting a Pro Bowl nod based on reputation ahead of a more deserving candidate.

Maybe the injustice will be corrected when it comes time to the All-Pro teams, which are voted on by NFL writers.

Or Sanders will have to settle for the recognition of having the greatest season ever for a Dolphins kicker.