The smooth-sailing Dolphins preseason crashed into the rocky regular-season coastline Wednesday.
MarQueis Gray, the Dolphins’ starting tight end, tore his Achilles tendon during a non-contact drill — messing with Miami’s game plan for Sunday’s season opener, and just as importantly, providing an emotional kick to the gut to a team that had been in great spirits.
“That’salways tough when it’s something serious to a guy who’s so beloved in this locker room,” said rookie Durham Smythe, who viewed Gray as a mentor.
“It sucks to come back because of that,” said tight end Gavin Escobar, who re-signed with the Dolphins Thursday — less than a week after they cut him to get their roster down to 53 players.
Added Dolphins coach Adam Gase: “It was tough to see. It showed everybody how much he cared about being on this team, how much he wanted to be a part of this season.”
Gray was never going to be an every-down player from scrimmage — the Dolphins were going to use a by-committee approach at tight end — but he was easily their most complete and, given the age of Smythe and fellow rookie Mike Gesicki, most dependable player at that position.
Now, the Dolphins will have to scramble in a way they have not had to this year. His was the first season-ending injury suffered by a Dolphins player this summer, and it came the week games start counting.
A.J. Derby was listed as Gray’s backup on the Dolphins’ first official depth chart, so he presumably will see his role grow. The Dolphins already had a robust package for Gesicki, but he now needs to be ready to do everything in case Derby gets hurt. And Smythe saw his first-team reps increase Thursday from Wednesday, a direct reflection of Gray’s injury.
“We’llmove some people around as far as what we were going to do offensively,” Gase said. “Wethought like we had some pretty good depth. We’ve got a couple of guys outthere who have been in the system. We’ll come up with a plan and be ready to goon Sunday.”
Will Escobar be part of that plan? He did not know, but should be ready to go, considering spent four months with the team prior to his release last week.
Escobar was back home in California when the Dolphins called him Wednesday and asked he fly back east. Escobar, a former second-round pick who has also had stints with the Cowboys, Chiefs, Ravens and Browns, took the red-eye, landed in South Florida around 3 a.m. and was at team headquarters a few hour later.
He immediately becomes the old guy in the position room. No Dolphins tight end is older than 27. Smythe and Gesicki were both born in 1995.
But both rookies must now step up — a point their coaches made when they delivered the news about Gray’s injury.
“It’stime to accelerate things a little bit and pick up any slack,” Smythe said.
Gesicki, the athletic second-round pick from Penn State, met with reporters Wednesday, before the team announced Gray was out for the year.
He credited his teammates for helping him get ready to play in Year 1, and Gray was a helpful ally. Gesicki has always been a hard worker, but that’s gone to another level as a pro, thanks in part to the advice of Miami’s more veteran players.
“It’s not so much where I’m supposed to be lining up or whoI’m working to and that kind of stuff,” Gesicki said. “It’s just the new plays and the newassignments that are going in. It’s not so much that I’m lining up and I don’tknow what I’m doing. It’s being able to take the new stuff from the meetingroom and then on to the practice field.”
Gesicki, who will be a big part of Miami’s red-zone package, insists he’s ready for Week 1.
The Dolphins need him to be. Plan B won’t be back in 2018.
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