One catch. Three targets. Not even 10 plays from scrimmage.
And yet, seemingly infinite excitement.
Thank you, DeVante Parker, for adding some life to this otherwise bloodless preseason finale.
Parker, now three months removed from foot surgery, took the field Thursday night for the first time in a Dolphins uniform.
And in his short time in the game, Parker showed flashes of why the Dolphins so eagerly awaited his return.
On his lone catch of the night, the rookie from Louisville roasted Buccaneers cornerback Mike Jenkins on a slant and caught an 11-yard bullet from Dolphins starter McCleod Bethel-Thompson (yes, you read that correctly).
The catch technically didn’t count, of course. No one will remember it in a week’s time. Nor will they remember the final score of a game that was an exercise in drudgery. (For the record, Tampa Bay won 22-17.)
But the very fact that Parker could suit up, could line up and expects to show up for the season opener in Washington on Sept.13 is the latest in a string of good injury news for the Dolphins.
Branden Albert didn’t play. Very few starters did. But he dressed and wasn’t scratched because of injury. This suggests Albert, barring a setback, will play when the season begins next weekend.
The same appears true for Parker. The Dolphins have been quietly optimistic that they would have their first-round pick for Week 1; Parker said late Thursday that he expects to play against the Redskins.
But few outside team headquarters imagined that he would be available in the preseason.
In early June, doctors replaced a screw in Parker’s left foot, which he broke during his senior season. He could have played through the discomfort this fall, but the Dolphins were more concerned about the next five years of Parker’s career than the next five months.
“The foot feels fine,” Parker said. “It doesn’t even bother me. It’s a real good relief. I think we just waited patiently this time. The first time we rushed back too early. Had to be patient.”
Parker’s return was among the very few relevant developments on a sleepy night at Sun Life.
▪ Will Davis, whose grasp on his roster spot is tenuous, had two interceptions in his final audition. During the CBS-4 broadcast, Dolphins football czar Mike Tannenbaum pointed out that Davis still has practice-squad eligibility, so the team might try to stash him there.
▪ The same fate might await Mike Gillislee, who appears to be the odd man out at running back. Gillislee might have also given the Dolphins pause Thursday; he rushed for 69 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns. Jay Ajayi, who is almost certainly on the team, had 66 yards on 9 carries before leaving with a chest injury. Ajayi wasn’t overly concerned about the injury after the game.
▪ Bethel-Thompson, meanwhile, would probably be grateful for a spot on the practice squad. He again struggled Thursday, throwing two interceptions before being pulled for Josh Freeman (who also threw two picks). Bethel-Thompson finished the preseason with an ugly passer rating of 43.9.
▪ Sam Brenner had a gaffe of his own, but one that probably didn’t cost him his job. Brenner, whose versatility likely gets him on the squad, snapped the ball over Bethel-Thompson’s head, resulting in a safety.
▪ LaMike James is another Dolphins player facing a nervous weekend. He probably only makes the team as a returner, but he muffed a punt Thursday, leading to a Buccaneers touchdown.
▪ The Dolphins’ miscues weren’t limited to turnovers. They also committed 11 penalties for 86 yards.
Joe Philbin was none too pleased with his team’s sloppiness but, in truth, the players making the mistakes won’t play significant roles on a team with playoff expectations.
Parker? Now that’s a different story.