Miami Dolphins’ Andrew Franks goes long, answers questions about that leg

Andrew Franks noticed he was kicking the wrong ball as he swung his leg but didn't let it deter him. (Getty Images)

Andrew Franks noticed he was kicking the wrong ball as he swung his leg but didn’t let it deter him. (Getty Images)

(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2017.)

K Andrew Franks

Height, weight: 6-1, 202

College: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Age: 24

Experience: Entering third season, all with Dolphins

Acquired: Signed as undrafted free agent

Contract: Made $525,000 in 2016; due $615,000 in 2017 in final year of contract

In 2016

Stats: 16 of 21 FGs with long of 55; 41 of 42 PATs; career- and team-high 89 points

Notable moments: Made his first game-winning FG with a 21-yarder against Arizona. … Converted career-long 55-yarder as time expired in regulation to force overtime at Buffalo.

Straight talk: For a kicker with a reputation of having a strong leg, Franks entered the 2016 season as an unknown. For various reasons, the Dolphins let him attempt only two field goals from 50 or more yards as a rookie. He made one.

His second season was moving along not remarkably different, with a long successful kick of just 41 yards. Against San Francisco, coach Adam Gase bypassed a 52-yard try and instead punted. When Franks kicked the game-winner against Arizona, it came from just 21 yards.

But if there were questions about Franks’ leg, he may have answered them with one kick. You know the one: 55 yards in frigid Buffalo, with all sorts of impediments to make it challenging. The Dolphins were out of timeouts. The final seconds of regulation were vanishing. The game was vital to Miami’s playoff hopes. And, finally, as Franks went to kick the ball, he realized it was not the one designated for kickers, but rather a rougher ball preferred by quarterbacks.

No matter. Franks made the kick, then added the winner from 27 yards in overtime.

Darren Rizzi, the Dolphins’ special teams coordinator, said, “If we sat here a week ago and said a 55-yarder in Buffalo in December with six seconds left, what are the percentages of making that kick for any kicker? Not Andrew Franks, but league-wide, that’s a big spot, a big kick and a tough, tough kick. So credit to him.”

Prospects for 2017

Dating back to the Caleb Sturgis era, sometimes the Dolphins have an open kicking competition in training camp, sometimes not. Franks had minimal competition early last year, but it speaks volumes that the Dolphins don’t plan to bring in another kicker.

“The specialist position is a really unique one because you’re always kind of competing against the rest of the field, regardless if we have two kickers or if there are two kickers somewhere else or whatever,” Rizzi said. “We felt very comfortable. … We’ll see how it goes, but my confidence in Andrew right now at this point is high based on how he finished last year.”

For what it’s worth, Franks concluded last season’s training camp by making — coincidentally — a 55-yarder as the entire team looked on inside the practice bubble. Franks was disappointed nonetheless.

“Let’s give it a real challenge,” he said. “In here, no wind or anything? I think I can kill it from 65.”

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