In My Opinion

Hard to get good read on Miami Dolphins’ receivers

 

asalguero@miamiherald.com

The Dolphins believe they have two fistfuls of wide receivers who are worthy of being on an NFL roster this year. So privately, they’re confident they have good players at the position.

But the Dolphins just don’t know if they have any playmakers.

Coaches don’t know if they have receivers who can make a game-changing play, make the heroic game-winning grab or turn a routine pass into a remarkable moment.

That’s the reason all options are now on the table. That’s the reason Braylon Edwards worked out last week and is being seriously considered as a possible addition within the next two weeks if not earlier.

That’s why the club is growing increasingly anxious to have the injured Brian Hartline get back on the field.

That’s why everyone is hopeful that Chad Johnson, who predicted a “monster year” this offseason, maintains his current trajectory and proves to be a prophet once the season begins.

Such is the situation with the Dolphins’ most intriguing group of players.

The NFL is a passing league, and the Dolphins have more questions at receiver than anywhere else on the roster, including quarterback.

And because general manager Jeff Ireland’s job is to help provide possible answers to those questions, he brought in Edwards for a workout around the middle of last week to see how the former Pro Bowl receiver might fit into the picture.

The results from that workout?

The Dolphins privately believe Edwards is healthy, which is no small issue considering he finished last season on injured reserve with a knee injury.

The team has very little compunction about Edwards’ citizenship because he’s been trouble-free since 2010 after previous speeding and drunk driving violations.

The Dolphins ultimately seem comfortable with the idea of adding Edwards for the right price and with the right timing.

Edwards is 29 years old and only a stopgap option. But if he could deliver anywhere close to the 904 yards and seven touchdowns he gave the Jets in 2010, the Dolphins would consider that an early Christmas gift.

The reason Edwards is even remotely attractive today is because he’s a proven playmaker when he’s healthy. He has 39 career touchdowns. All the current Dolphins receivers not named Chad Johnson, 11 players in all, have combined for 21 career touchdowns.

Beyond the question of whether or when Edwards should be signed, the Dolphins have other issues at wide receiver that need resolution.

Hartline, a starter in each of the past two years, has missed the past two days of practice with a calf injury.

Before that he had an appendectomy.

Before that he missed much of the offseason with both the calf injury and the fallout from the appendectomy.

The personnel department that drafted him and has seen him perform is comfortable with Hartline. The coaching staff that doesn’t know him is less so. Both badly want him back on the field, something that might have to wait at least a few more days.

Miami’s search for a big-play receiver would not feel so urgent if Clyde Gates was a known quantity. He’s not. He didn’t contribute as a rookie receiver and had an inconsistent offseason.

The Dolphins say he has practiced very well the past couple of days. He hasn’t caught a bunch of passes because the ball hasn’t been coming to him, but he has been getting open and that’s encouraging. The team is hopeful that Gates continues to progress and finally becomes the deep threat he was drafted to be.

Like so many things about this wide receiver corps, that’s not a certainty.

It’s good news for Miami that Davone Bess and the former Ochocinco have been impressive early in camp. Bess practicing well is no surprise. He’s a top-10 slot receiver in the league.

Johnson seemingly getting back some of the swagger that he had in Cincinnati is a bit more surprising considering he was a ghost in New England last season, catching only 15 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown on a pass-intensive Super Bowl team.

Johnson has shown dependable hands in practices, and the Dolphins say he has been attentive and worked hard while in the building. He has apparently been putting in long hours.

That doesn’t guarantee that Johnson will make good on his predictions to become an elite playmaker again. But the possibility is there.

And that’s all the Dolphins have right now.

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