Tuesday, March 15, 2011

John Bonamego resurfaces in New Orleans

Former Miami Dolphins special teams coordinator John Bonamego, who was fired on Oct. 5 after a disastrous showing in a blowout loss to the New England Patriots, has re-joined Sean Payton's staff in New Orleans as the Saints' assistant special teams coach.

Bonamego, who originally joined the Dolphins in 2008 after two seasons as the Saints' special teams coordinator, will now work under new coordinator Mike Mallory, who was promoted from his assistant role.

Tony Sparano and the Dolphins made Bonamego the scapegoat for a horrendous special teams exhibition in Week 4, in which the Patriots returned a kickoff and blocked field goal for touchdowns and also blocked a punt in a 41-14 victory on Monday Night Football.

The Dolphins handed the job to assistant special teams coach Darren Rizzi, who was hired in 2009 and was officially given Bonamego's old gig in a January announcement. The Dolphins also added Dave Fipp to serve as Rizzi's assistant in 2011.

While the Dolphins' trio of Dan Carpenter, Brandon Fields, and John Denney has excelled, the team's kickoff and punt coverage and return units have long been problematic. The Dolphins traded speedy returner Ted Ginn, Jr. to the 49ers in 2010 and might lose special teams ace Patrick Cobbs to free agency this offseason.

The Dolphins have found younger players that have shined in coverage, like Lex Hilliard and 2010 undrafted rookie Jonathon Amaya and Roberto Wallace, and that is a good sign.

However, the team allowed 24.6 yards per kickoff return in 2010 (fifth highest in the NFL) and 10.6 yards per punt return (11th highest), so it will be up to Rizzi to right the ship and do what Bonamego could not over the past three seasons.

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