The Dolphins’ predicament at receiver includes some measure of clarity at the top of the depth chart and unresolved issues at the bottom, with a former Hurricane, an erstwhile quarterback, a 5-7 jitterbug nicknamed Mighty Mouse and a vegan all competing for jobs.
What’s clear is that barring injuries, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills should be Miami’s top three receivers. Third-round pick Leonte Carroo also will assuredly be on the team.
Less clear is whether Miami keeps five or six receivers and whether Carroo can emerge as a reliable No. 4 receiver as a rookie.
“We have a bunch of guys that are very fast, very strong, very big,” Carroo said Wednesday.
Carroo should earn receiver snaps as a rookie if he plays like he did at Rutgers, where he caught 122 passes, including 29 touchdowns, for an impressive 19.5 yard average, with only three career drops.
“He’s a strong, physical guy that’s going to be a weapon for us,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “He’s going to be able to have some run-after-catch, be physical with the corners and be physical down the field.”
Receivers coach Shawn Jefferson has been teaching Carroo how to come out of his breaks more quickly. “He wants us to break old habits we may have,” Carroo said, adding that playing in a pro-style offense at Rutgers helped prepare him for the NFL.
The Dolphins’ other rookie receiver draft pick, sixth-rounder Jakeem Grant, has found seams in the defense and made some plays in offseason practices.
“A lot of defensive guys have made comments about how quick and how fast [the 5-7 Grant] is,” coach Adam Gase said, adding he won’t be calling Grant “Mighty Mouse,” the nickname given to him by teammates.
“It’s almost like we have to [slow] him down a little bit, because … when we do some routes versus air, he can get a little bit out of control. It’s learning how to run certain routes at the right tempo.”
Don’t discount Griff Whalen, who caught 45 passes for 487 yards and three touchdowns over three seasons with the Colts and earned the trust of Clyde Christensen, the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator and former Colts assistant. If Whalen excels in training camp and Grant seizes one of the return jobs, the Dolphins could keep six receivers.
“I was always … kind of that bubble guy,” Whalen said. “I could have been gone any day. I was mostly a slot guy in Indy but after my first two years, it was almost an even 50-50 of outside snaps and inside snaps.”
Whalen has followed a plant-based diet for two years because, “I’m looking for anything I can do to give myself an advantage.”
His typical meals? “Breakfast is oatmeal, fruit and whatever else I want to throw into it. And then lunch and dinner, a rice and bean kind of dish is pretty typical. Lots of veggies. A salad. I make a lot of smoothies because I can just throw greens and fruit and stuff in there.”
On rare occasions, he will splurge with a pastry; he said he found a vegan bakery near the Dolphins’ practice facility in Davie.
The Dolphins have liked Matt Hazel enough to keep him around for two years (2014 on the practice squad, 2015 on the active roster), but his playing time has been limited to five games, with no receptions. Hazel has a chance to stick if there are injuries at the position or if he outplays Whalen and/or Grant in preseason.
Among roster long shots: A.J. Cruz, a former Arena League player who played for Gase in training camp with the Bears last season; Tyler Murphy, a former quarterback for the Florida Gators and Boston College; Temple undrafted rookie Brandon Shippen; and former UM receiver Rashawn Scott, who caught 52 passes for 695 yards and five touchdowns for the Hurricanes last season.
Scott said Wednesday he picked the Dolphins over post-draft offers from eight other teams partly because he felt a connection with general manager Chris Grier. Scott has been working on his route running with former Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers, who operates a local training facility. He said one of his strengths is that he’s “always going to high-point the ball.”
Scott, 6-2, said he has made some catches in practice, including a reception from Matt Moore in the back of the end zone. The UM family is close, and Scott keeps in contact with UM quarterback Brad Kaaya, former receivers coach Kevin Beard and ex-teammate Herb Waters, an undrafted rookie with the Packers.