When Dolphins receivers show up to work, they never know quite how many distinguished former NFL receivers will be tutoring them.
They can always count on being pushed and prodded by new receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, who caught 29 touchdowns in a 13-year NFL career.
But there are also frequent appearances from Wes Welker, the five-time Pro Bowler.
And there are periodic cameos from Chris Chambers, the former Dolphins standout who caught 58 touchdowns and now runs his own training and fitness center for NFL players and aspiring ones.
“It’s good to have them at your disposal,” Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry said. “It’s always good to have them out there with you seeing things they may have seen that can help you be a better receiver and help this offense. Wes has been here pretty often. When he’s here, he’s always a presence in the room and on the field.”
Jefferson invited Chambers to come by when he wants (Chambers has been training Jefferson’s son, Van, a receiver at the University of Mississippi), and coach Adam Gase has an open door policy with Welker, whom he coached in Denver.
Welker and Chambers observe and offer tips when they’re around, but it’s naturally Jefferson’s voice they hear the most.
Jefferson has persistently been in the ear of rookie receivers Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant, who must grow up in a hurry because DeVante Parker (hamstring) hasn’t practiced all week and is in serious doubt for Sunday’s opener at Seattle. Miami wants Carroo and Grant to eliminate rookie mistakes.
Grant said Jefferson pushes the receivers so hard that the coach was critical of Carroo even after he made a great catch in practice recently.
“I didn’t line up correctly at the start of the play,” Carroo said. “If you do one thing wrong, he will correct it. He doesn’t care about a great play. He wants a perfect play.”
Chambers said Carroo has “good quickness for his size [6-1] but he’s thinking a little bit out there, trying to understand what’s going on.”
What Gase likes about Carroo is this: “If he has a defender draped on him, he’ll pull it in. I see a guy with strong hands that can move defenders off the ball. I think he doesn’t even know some of the things that he needs to know to really help himself.”
Such as? “How do I do each route?,” Gase said. “How do I get open? If I get pressed, what am I going to do?... He’s got a little ways to go, but the thing I love about him is that he works so hard.”
As for Grant, Gase said this week: “There are certain things that he has done well, and there are certain things he has struggled at. We’re trying to get him caught up to speed more.”
Jefferson continues to implore him “to be under control,” Grant said. “My speed is fast enough where I don't have to go 100 percent full-out. Just get those guys to know I make it look like I'm going full speed but I'm really not. Coach Jefferson is hard on me but he's going to make me a great receiver.”
Players also appreciate the input from Welker and Chambers. “Coach Welker is coaching me up as much as coach Jefferson, critiques me on a lot of things,” Grant said, calling him “coach” Welker even though he’s technically not one.
From observing first-hand, Chambers – who would like to come by the Dolphins facility one day a week - offered insight into each of Miami’s top three receivers:
▪ On Kenny Stills: “He is still trying to find a way to use his speed and quickness. He has both. Just a little inconsistent with his hands sometimes. I want to see more of being able to catch balls across the middle and break some tackles and not just be down the field good. If he can run good intermediate routes, that will set up his stuff down the field. Then his game will open.”
▪ On Landry, who doesn’t want to be known as strictly a slot receiver: “He can be very effective outside; you look at guys like Marvin Harrison, he played outside and Landry is a lot thicker than him. They both have the same quickness and same hands. He can definitely play outside a little more, especially in the red zone. Landry’s hands are great. His demeanor is to be the best and dominate.”
▪ On Parker: “If he works, he should be unstoppable. He has hands, speed, size. He has to learn to get out of his route; the end of the route for taller guys, it’s tougher to bend their knees and bend down — he’s got to learn to get lower in and out of routes. He doesn’t want to give away routes. I emphasized that to him.”