DeVante Parker could have hardly envisioned a worse start to his crucial fourth NFL season.
He has missed three of his first four games because of injury. With a fifth-year option to his rookie contract on the line, he has two catches for 40 yards in 2018. And he is no sure thing to play Sunday against the Bengals.
Parker is questionable with a quadriceps injury that kept him out of the Patriots game, just the latest setback in a career that has never been able to click into high gear.
Dolphins coach Adam Gase knows this is a critical moment in Parker’s young football life, and spent time with his young receiver during practice Friday. The two men spoke as they walked from the field to the stationary bike, which has been Parker’s primary source of exercise as he tries to rehab from his latest issue.
“I just want to make sure he doesn’t get frustrated,” Gase said. “This is a long season. You guys can see how we’re at that point where everybody’s banged up. .... I just don’t want him getting too low thinking, ‘Is this going to stop happening?’ This is football. That’s what happens. You have to keep taking care of your body, get as healthy as you can, because you’re never going to 100 percent, and when you can go, you go.”
Parker is under contract through 2019, but next year’s $9.5 million base salary is guaranteed only in the case of injury.
The Dolphins could be without three of their top four defensive ends Sunday against the Bengals.
Defensive end Cameron Wake is doubtful with a knee injury that has prevented him from practicing all week. Andre Branch is questionable, while William Hayes is out for the year — both also with knee injuries.
Gase is open to Wake playing without practicing, if he can. And he did not rule out Branch for Sunday.
“Right now, we’re still going through our process,” Gase said. “We still have time. We’re hoping we can get as many guys back as we possibly can. We’ll just kind of see how it plays out. See if some guys can travel, some guys. I think the majority of guys are at least going to be able to travel, give us more time.”
That’s just the start of Miami’s injury issues. Cornerback Bobby McCain (knee), tight end A.J. Derby (foot) and quarterback Luke Falk (wrist) have all been ruled out.
Seven Dolphins are questionable to play: Branch, Parker, safety Reshad Jones (shoulder), safety T.J. McDonald (foot), linebacker Chase Allen (foot), linebacker Stephone Anthony (hamstring) and running back Brandon Bolden (hamstring).
▪ Kenyan Drake’s three carries against the Patriots — and his decision not to talk to reporters in the time since — has been a topic of much discussion this season. Is Drake upset about his workload?
Gase said Friday that he has not spoken to his third-year running back this week about his role, but did say this when asked about the Dolphins’ stagnant ground game:
“I think we’re four games in. It’s not enough for everyone to get riled up about the first four games of the season. We’ve got a long ways to go. If we get our play count up, I think things will be a lot better, as far as touches divided up, guys having more opportunities to make some plays. ... We have the players to be able to that. We have to find a way to sustain drives and convert on third downs.”