As five-foot-seven, 169-pound Jakeem Grant lined up at a receiver for the Dolphins during preseason games, several cornerbacks assigned to cover him essentially delivered the same message.
“They come up to me and say, ‘You can smile, but you're not going to get off the line.’ Next thing you know, I'm hitting them over the top for a big play!
“All I do is laugh. They look at me and they're like, 'Man, I'm going to lock this guy down because he's small.’”
Who exactly has said that? "Probably every corner I've gone against. I've heard it multiple times."
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Grant has had the proverbial last laugh on several of those matchups, closing preseason with eight catches for 230 yards (an absurd 28.7 average) and two touchdowns.
That follows a rookie season in which the Dolphins’ primary kickoff and punt returner played just 19 offensive snaps and dropped the only pass thrown to him.
Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said in May that the team was determined to increase Grant’s role in the offense, and Grant believes he has made a convincing case for playing time, even while aware that coach Adam Gase likes to play primarily his three veteran receivers – DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills.
Leonte Carroo, the Dolphins’ No. 4 receiver for much of last season before being passed by now-injured Rashawn Scott, played just 103 offensive snaps in 2016. Grant has made a strong case to surpass Carroo on the depth chart.
"I feel like I've made great improvement to show the coaches they can trust me, and whenever they put me out there, I will make a great play and know what I'm doing,” Grant said. “I've got three great receivers ahead of me. That's why I grind every day to be able to be a top three guy and be out there. Whatever they have for me, I'm ready to take it on. I'm pretty sure they will [use me]. I'm just waiting for that moment."
Grant, who caught 254 passes for 3286 yards and 27 touchdowns in four years at Texas Tech, cites two factors as critical to his development as a receiver:
• The Dolphins’ decision this past spring to move him from the slot to the boundary.
“I played very few plays outside in college,” Grant said. “Coach [Gase] moved me out to outside. I was like, 'OK'. That created a lot of one-on-one opportunities. It helped me a lot to be able to read the defense.”
Grant now is almost always matched against taller corners who can’t match his speed or nimbleness.
“What God blessed me with is speed and quickness,” Grant said. “A lot of corners don’t match up with smaller, quick twitch receivers on the outside. I’m giving the illusion that I'm going somewhere I'm not in the route technique.
“I’m not letting [cornerbacks] be able to put their hands on me. And even if they do put their hands on me, they don't understand that I'm a strong guy. Don't let the size fool you. Just because you put your hands on me doesn't mean I won't be able to get off.”
Grant believes moving outside is his “calling,” which surprises him because he said he never gave thought to playing on the boundary until Dolphins coaches told him they were putting him there.
“All I can say is thank you to the coaches because obviously it was [smart], my calling, to move me to the outside,” he said. “A lot of people told me, 'You will never play outside in the league and here I am, playing outside receiver and making great plays.'”
• Grant also cites improvement in route running and other technical aspects of his game.
In addition to receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, Grant also said he gives “a lot of thanks to Jarvis and Kenny. I hit those guys up over the summer to do receiving drills. Those guys critique me a lot on things I was doing wrong. I made those corrections.”
“It was everything – catching the ball, route running, what I should do against a defender if he’s playing leverage or anything,” Grant said. “How to read a defense. Everything as a receiver they were coaching me up on.
“I can honestly say those guys pushed me to where I'm at. And I really appreciate that from them. All they want is the best from me. And I'm going to continue and go out and make plays and not let those guys down.”
And even though some cornerbacks trash talk him, Grant said “a lot of corners say, ‘Good job’ or ‘You're the hardest person I ever covered’ or ‘I never went up against a guy like you’ or things like that.”
Grant said the message from opponents is essentially: “I'm not like the other receivers.”
To which he says: “Exactly! I'm not like the other receivers!”
• The Dolphins have a team meeting scheduled in Southern California on Tuesday and will practice in Oxnard, Cal., on Wednesday through Friday in advance of Sunday’s game at the Los Angeles Chargers.
Here are my UM and Marlins notes from Tuesday morning, including an update from athletic director Blake James on the post-Irma football situation, Malik Rosier, Derek Jeter mulling his next move, Ichiro Suzuki and the Marlins’ complicated third base future.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz