DeVante Parker might be lost for a few months, but at least Ryan Tannehill still has Jarvis Landry.
Tannehill, who suggested Monday that Parker’s recent foot surgery will limit the rookie receiver for at least the start of training camp, found Landry early and often during Monday’s Organized Team Activities (OTA) practice.
The highlight of the steamy afternoon: When Landry reeled in a jaw-dropping one-handed touchdown catch in a two-minute drill.
Even more impressive: The way both quarterback and receiver made it seem like no big deal.
“It was ridiculous,” said Tannehill, but “we see it all the time. Probably once a week we see a catch like that in practice. None of us are shocked, but it’s exciting.”
Added Landry, the second-year receiver who caught 84 passes as a rookie: “He just gave me the opportunity to make a play and put the ball in a great spot. Maybe I could have got two hands there, but I’ll take the touchdown.”
Moments like that were a reminder that, despite all of Tannehill’s shiny new toys, Landry will probably be his go-to-guy, particularly in the early part of the season.
Parker, the rookie first-round pick, has been the talk of the spring. But doctors decided last week that he needed to replace a screw in his foot from a 2014 surgery.
And though the Dolphins insist Parker will be ready for Week 1, Tannehill said the expectation is the receiver will miss some “training camp reps.” Still, the setback has not changed the organization’s high hopes.
“We’re excited about him when he comes back,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “We expect him to be a great player here for a long time.”
The immediate beneficiary of Parker’s misfortune is Rishard Matthews, who has practiced well since ending his short boycott of the team’s offseason program.
Matthews was upset by the front office’s moves this offseason ‒ drafting Parker, signing Greg Jennings and trading for Kenny Stills. He took them to mean that he would again be buried on the depth chart. Matthews asked for his release or a trade, but the Dolphins refused; they instead kept him as a hedge against injury.
Last week, with Parker’s setback, that decision proved wise. Monday was the latest in a string of strong practices for Matthews, the fourth-year wideout whom Philbin said has been making plays all spring.
“Right now, our talent level at the skill position players is as high as it’s been since I’ve been here,” Tannehill said. “I’m excited about that.”
It’s up to Tannehill and play caller Bill Lazor to maximize that talent. They haven’t hid from last year’s failures; instead, they’ve zeroed in on them.
“We have our basic plays in that we executed well last year, and we’ll rep them occasionally here, but we’re really focusing on the plays we didn’t execute so well last year and we’re getting better on attacking that side of the field,” Tannehill said.
Every sports fan in South Florida knows about Tannehill’s issues completing the deep ball; he connected on just 16 of 53 attempts over 20 yards last year. So that has been a big point of emphasis during the non-contact OTAs.
But so has the intermediate stuff across the middle, which many view as a strength. Rather, Tannehill said the offense needs to do a better job making big plays between the hashes, from 8 to 20 yards.
A season’s worth of catches like the one Landry had Monday would certainly help.
▪ With Parker on the shelf, the Dolphins brought back receiver Tommy Streeter, a former practice squader who played at Miami Northwestern High and the University of Miami.
▪ Asked about the freak injury to kicker Caleb Sturgis, who hurt his leg during a team-organized kickball game, Philbin said: “Everything that happens from the minute they walk in here until the minute they leave is under my watch. We do things strength-and-conditioning wise. We do things classroom-wise. We do things on the practice field. We do things for team building and everything runs through me. That’s what happened.”
▪ Along with Sturgis and Parker, tackle Branden Albert (knee) and safety Don Jones (shoulder) did not practice Monday. Safety Louis Delmas and corner Will Davis returned after sitting out last week, but Delmas did very little. Corner Jamar Taylor was kept out of the late stages of practice with an undisclosed issue.
▪ The Dolphins continue to experiment at guard. Dallas Thomas and Jamil Douglas alternated on the left side and Jeff Linkenbach got a few reps ahead of Billy Turner on the right.