Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Special teams coach Darren Rizzi retained; Bush trade details revealed

Despite reports Monday that at least six Miami Dolphins assistant coaches will not be retained on new head coach Joe Philbin's staff and certainly more to follow, one coach that is expected to be back in 2012 is special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi.

Philbin and Rizzi have never coached on the same staff at any level, but perhaps the two know each other from other means or maybe Philbin was just impressed with the job Rizzi has done in more than a year running the Dolphins' special-teams unit.

Rizzi was initially added to Tony Sparano's staff as an assistant special teams coach in 2009, working under then-coordinator John Bonamego. When Bonamego was fired in October 2010 after a disastrous blowout loss to the Patriots, Rizzi was promoted to the coordinator role and maintained the job in 2011.

It's hard to argue with Philbin's decision to keep Rizzi, because special teams has been one area the Dolphins have truly excelled over the past year. Plackeicker Dan Carpenter converted 85.3 percent of his kicks in 2011; Brandon Fields is regularly one of the best punters in the NFL; and long snapper John Denney hasn't missed a game in seven seasons and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2010.

The Dolphins also ranked 13th in the NFL in kickoff return average with rookie Clyde Gates serving as the primary returner. On the coverage side of things, the Dolphins held opponents to 22.9 yards per return (10th in NFL) and 9.9 yards per punt return (16th) while not allowing a return touchdown.

It's no surprise that Philbin is overhauling the staff and likely bringing in a handful of guys familiar to him, but it's nice to see he's not doing so blindly and is retaining a great coordinator to run a special-teams unit that was a well-oiled machine in 2011.

Bush officially becomes a steal for Dolphins

When Reggie Bush wrapped up his first season in Miami, it became clear that he was a great addition for the Dolphins. Before this week, we already knew the first-time 1,000-yard rusher cost the Dolphins only special-teamer Jonathon Amaya and an "undisclosed pick" that was not contingent on Bush's performance.

Ben Volin reported Tuesday that the deal was officially Bush for Amaya and a swap of sixth-round picks in 2012, meaning the Dolphins didn't even lose a pick in the upcoming draft but rather just slid down a bit.

The Dolphins will give the Saint the eighth or ninth pick in the round, depending on the offseason coin flip to break a tie with the Panthers. (Because it is in an even round, the pick will be the reverse order of the Dolphins' and Panthers' picks in the first round.)

In return, Miami will receive the No. 27 pick in the sixth round. The overall pick is not yet known because the NFL has not announced the compensatory picks (which begin in round three) given out to teams for free agents lost the previous offseason. For reference, the 27th pick in the sixth round in 2011 was the No. 192 overall.

Bush is due a $4.5 million base salary in 2012 before hitting the free agent market the following offseason. Regardless of what Philbin does with Miami's offense, the former No. 2 overall pick is expected to enter camp entrenched as the team's feature back.

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