First, let’s get this out of the way: It’s easier for receivers to look good in offseason practices than players at virtually any other position. There are no pads. The caveat is that June success stories sometimes turn into August afterthoughts.
“Everything looks good when we’re in non-pads,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Wednesday.
That’s why any praise of receivers who flash, such as Arkansas alum Drew Morgan, should be tempered until preseason games start.
That being said, a few things on receivers from day two of the Dolphins’ mandatory three-day mini-camp:
• DeVante Parker caught everything in his area code, snatching at least five passes on different routes, including a nifty 30-plus yard TD from Ryan Tannehill that beat Xavien Howard.
His continued evolution this offseason, in advance of his third pro season, has been encouraging.
“You see a different guy out there every day,” Gase said, clarifiying that he meant you see the same guy every day, one different from last year. “You see the consistency compared to what we saw last spring. We’ve seen him moving as fast as game day. He treats everything like a game day.”
I asked Gase who has specifically pushed and helped Parker do the right things more (such as hydrating more, eating better, getting more sleep and becoming more detailed and precise in his routes, etc.)
He mentioned receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, strength and conditioning coach Dave Puloka, sports performance director Wayne Diesel and team nutritionist Mary Ellen Kelly.
“It was a lot of people trying to put him in the right direction,” Gase said. “At the end of the day, he has to do it day in, day out. He gravitated to it and stuck with the plan made for him during the season. Once the season ended, he carried it on, on his own. It’s evident he started working on things earlier than he’s ever done.”
Gase became familiar with Parker when he was working as the Bears offensive coordinator. Chicago studied Parker before the 2015 draft but the Bears instead took West Virginia receiver Kevin White at No. 7. Miami took Parker 14th.
During that time, Gase gleaned insight about Parker from then Bears-colleague Clint Hurtt, the former UM assistant who later was an assistant at Louisville (when Parker was there). Gase was able to apply that insight to his first head coaching job.
“I was given a lot of information,” Gase said. “Clint had a lot of helpful things to tell me to know what to look out for to help DeVante, to understand how he saw things, how he operated in college, how he did well. When he did struggle, how he got over the hump.”
Does Parker remind Gase of anybody?
“Being with Demaryius [Thomas] and [Eric] Decker when they were rookies, I saw a lot of the same the way his path has gone,” Gase said. “Similar to those guys. Injuries early in his career, fought through ups and downs. I see him doing the same thing, going out there with a purpose. Every day, we see a guy getting better.”
• Seventh-round rookie receiver Isaiah Ford made a nice catch, outstretching his body, and has really come on in the past week. Asked the young receiver who has impressed him, defensive back Walt Aikens mentioned Ford.
“I like Isaiah Ford,” he said. “Smooth game on the field. He will surprise you.”
• Though Jakeem Grant has dropped several passes (including one on Wednesday), he also made a terrific catch in the corner of the end zone on a pass from Matt Moore on Wednesday. The Dolphins have used him a lot on the boundary this spring, not merely in the slot.
“Jakeem has made some huge strides throughout the spring,” Gase said. “We were trying to figure out what was the best spot for him. We’re trying to get him to play as fast as he could. You could tell when a guy spends extra time. He makes some really good plays. It comes down to consistency, consistently making those catches. Not only hard ones, but those easy ones that can get you sometimes as a receiver. When he has days where he doesn’t have anything on the ground and is on the right spots, those are the days you want to keep building on and see if you can get three, four days in a row [like that].”
• Funniest moment of practice: Jarvis Landry beating Bryon Maxwell for a catch, then suddenly stopping and tossing Maxwell the ball.
A few other things:
• Rookie defensive end Charles Harris has been running with the starters in pass rush situations, Ndamukong Suh said.
• Aikens, a safety the past two seasons, said he has played exclusively at cornerback this offseason and has been told he needs to be ready to play at both corner and safety this season. The Dolphins value his work on special teams.
• Anthony Steen said he has split his time evenly between guard and center this spring.
A guard at Alabama, Steen admitted Wednesday that when he was asked to play center last season, “I was scared to death, honestly.”
He said he was demoted (and replaced by Kraig Urbik during Mike Pouncey’s absence last season) because an injury diminished his play. He revealed he sustained that ankle injury when Jermon Bushrod fell on him. “It kind of went downhill from there,” he said.
• Pouncey, recovering from last year’s hip problems, hasn’t practiced at all this offseason but “still comes to meetings,” Steen said. “He’s always here, trying to pay attention and watch film. His mindset is he’s going to play [this season]. He’s walking fine. He was 75, 80 percent for a while on those crutches. Last two weeks [without crutches], he seemed fine to me.”
• Practice was disrupted by a massive swarm of bees, which prompted the team to change directions on the field closest to the bees.
• Undrafted defensive back Maurice Smith picked off Moore and continues to flash.