After the worst season of his career in 2021, Miami Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders looked to be heading in the right direction in the preseason, making eight of his nine field-goal attempts, including all four from beyond 50 yards.
However, when the regular season began, Sanders continued to experience the same woes that were present the year prior. Through 17 weeks, he was 23-of-29 (79.3%) and was on pace for a career-low in extra-point percentage (93.2%).
In the final week, on Miami’s final offensive drive, Skylar Thompson drove the team down the field, setting Sanders up for a field goal that would likely decide the game. He stepped up and nailed the kick, essentially sealing a victory and their chances of making the postseason.
Then, in the wild-card matchup against the Buffalo Bills, Sanders hit all three of his field goal attempts and both of his extra points, keeping the Dolphins alive in a game that probably shouldn’t have been as close as it was.
His partner in the kicking game, holder and punter Thomas Morstead, was there throughout the journey and saw the way that Sanders dealt with the stress of the season.
“Jason is about as talented a guy as I’ve ever been around,” Morstead said. “He reminds me a lot of Will Lutz down in New Orleans just guys that hit straight balls that are technically really good and have a really nice swing. Both tough-minded. He hung in there really well this year. I know there was definitely some noise, and there were a few times when we didn’t get it done, collectively, and he just hung in there.
“We start off, I want to say four or five kicks outside of 50 yards in the preseason, and everybody was super fired up. Then, we had a few different misses early and midseason that were kind of big kicks that just didn’t go our way. He just hung in there, continued to work, continued to grind. As a specialist, you’re always tinkering, and you’ve never arrived. There’s always something to work on, and you’re always trying to just find your groove. He hung in there.”
When it came down to that final kick in the regular season, nobody was happier for, or prouder of, Sanders than Morstead.
“I was really, really happy for him, for the team, and for him individually, just the way we finished the season out against the Jets to go to the playoffs,” the punter said. “He deserved to have that come down to him and for him to come through. You don’t always get what you deserve in this league, and I was just really happy for him. And, just the way he handled it after the game. All of a sudden you’re kind of put up on a pedestal, and you come through, I remember his quote after the game just saying he felt like he owed it to the guys on the team. He wasn’t too high. He was just doing his job. I really enjoyed working with him. It was a real pleasure. He’s an elite player in this league, and I was proud of the way he hung in there.”
Sanders’ future with Miami is up in the air, as, according to Spotrac, the Dolphins could cut the kicker and incur no penalty this offseason. The team has to weigh the missed kicks earlier in the season against the big kicks he made in Week 18 and the wild-card game. If they think they can correct some of the issues, he’ll be back next year.