Time to take off the training wheels.
Mike Gesicki and Charles Harris: Let’s see what you’ve got.
The NFL is a cruel, unforgiving sport.
Results trump best intentions.
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The Dolphins want to shock the world. The want to beat the Patriots on Sunday and go 4-0 for the first time since 1995.
Fittingly enough, that so happens to be the year Gesicki, the Dolphins’ rookie tight end, and Harris, their second-year defensive end, were born.
It makes sense, then, that the Dolphins’ chances of dethroning the Patriots as AFC East bullies rely on these two young players having the best games of their career.
The Dolphins drafted each for this very moment.
Harris in the first round in 2017.
Gesicki in the second round in 2018.
You expect your top draft picks to become your stars.
Neither has yet had a defining moment in their nascent careers.
But, as they say, there’s no time like the present.
Harris, who has two sacks in 19 career games, is expected to get his most snaps of the year Sunday in Foxborough. Neither William Hayes nor Andre Branch is available. Both have knee injuries.
So Harris is proverbial next man up — even if he did his best this week to tamp down any such talk.
“Shoot, it’s been everybody’s time,” Harris told the Miami Herald. “Every time you’re on the field it’s your time. I don’t look at it as any more time or less time. It’s just a game.”
Harris added: “It ain’t, ‘I’m waiting on this Sunday.’ No, it’s every Sunday, I’m playing the game. Every Sunday, I’m trying to go hard. That’s it. It ain’t no — you all are trying to make it seem like it’s something special. It’s every single game, I’m trying to go hard.”
Maybe so. Yet the Dolphins have never needed him more. Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake will get the plurality, if not majority, of snaps at end. But Harris is now No. 3 on the depth chart. He will play a lot.
And he must play better than he has.
“Yeah, they’re going to go up,” Harris said of his reps. “Like I said, it’s really just a game. It ain’t like rocket science. It’s just like having a vet day in practice. Get more snaps. More opportunities to make plays.”
The stakes might be even higher for Gesicki. With A.J. Derby ruled out because of a foot injury, Gesicki is on track to not just start, but perhaps play most every snap.
He has had a quiet start to his NFL career, catching four passes for 42 yards and no touchdowns in three games.
That’s despite being on the field for nearly half of Miami’s offensive plays.
“Everybody wants to go ‘Mike’s not getting the ball, Mike’s not this, Mike’s got to block better, he’s got to do that,’ Gesicki said. “I just block everything out and do my job, know my role, know my assignment, just go out and execute. At the end of the day, we do whatever we can to win and so far we’re 3-0.”
Gesicki said he prides himself on having a short memory — with both his own mistakes and with criticism he gets from the outside.
And he insists he is leaps and bounds better than he was when training camp began just two months ago.
“Just not being confused out on the field when Ryan [Tannehill] calls a play,” Gesicki added. “You go back to OTAs, you go back to training camp, you call a play and you’re thinking, not only about the play but where to line up. All of the sudden, you just line up, you know your role, you know your assignment and you execute.”
In other words: Get on that bike at the top of the hill, release the brake and start pedaling.
There’s really no other choice.
“Even when I came in, it’s not like I was like ‘I want the ball, I want this, I want that,’” Gesicki added. “I’m just coming in and working my tail off each and every day. This way, whether it’s one time or it’s 10 times, whether it’s this week or whether it’s the last week of the season, if the ball comes my way or if my number gets called, I have to execute.”