Miami Dolphins

Gimme 5! With Williams done, Dolphins need Grant, Wilson to bring back old magic

A bit of recent Dolphins folklore is now a distant, distant memory.

It has been more than 400 days — and feels more like 400 years — since Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson celebrated a long-distance touchdown during the play by slapping hands on the way to the end zone.

Much has happened since then, and little good for Grant and Wilson. Both sustained season-ending injuries later in the 2018 season. Neither has looked the same since.

But football has a weird way allowing for second chances. And on Sunday against the Colts in Indianapolis, Grant and Wilson should both get their biggest chance yet to make things right.

When Preston Williams went down for the season with a torn ACL in Week 9 against the New York Jets, it cost the Dolphins more than their most productive receiver. They also lost their most-used receiver. His 60 targets through eight games were more than Grant and Wilson saw combined.

Unless the Dolphins intend on throwing to DeVante Parker every down Sunday against the Colts, expect Grant and Wilson to get more involved.

And maybe, just maybe, they’ll break off one of those trademark home runs that provided such promise early last season.

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“Man, I’m itching,” said Grant, who has averaged just 8.4 yards on his 14 catches this year. “I’m ready. I’m patiently waiting. Just continue to go out there and work and try to connect on them. Just ready. Ready to get my feet in the end zone.”

Added Wilson, whose longest catch is 22 yards this season: “Just trying to get my shoulder squared upfield. If I get my shoulder squared up, kind of get my body going upfield, I think I’ll be close to there. It’s going to come. It’s going to come for sure.”

The Dolphins’ biggest issue on offense hasn’t been the blocking or ground game. Rather, they haven’t been able to overcome their lack of dynamic plays. They rank last in average explosive pass rate (at 5 percent), according to SharpFootballStats.com. Their 17 pass plays of 20 or more yards are second-fewest in the NFL.

And knowing that Grant and Wilson are on the roster makes it all the more confounding. Their breakaway speed carried the Dolphins’ offense early last year and helped them win games they shouldn’t have.

But neither has been able to get it back in 2019.

If that doesn’t change between now and the New Year’s, it won’t be from lack of chances.

“I think the more opportunities they get, the more flash plays that they can make,” Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “Just continue to try to get them opportunities and, obviously, with a guy who got a lot of balls in Preston going down, there will be a lot more balls to go around now.”

Even though the Dolphins signed veteran returner Marcus Sherels this week, Dolphins coach Brian Flores suggested that Grant is in line to win back the punt-return job. He lost it to Williams earlier this season because of ineffectiveness and a couple of drops. Grant insists he has learned from those earlier mistakes.

“I dropped those two trying to make a big play, trying to make every play a big play,” Grant said. “Not looking it in. I’ve got to have the trust the blocking is there instead of looking for defenders, focus on catching the ball. Wish I could have those back but I can’t. That was early in the season. Kickoff return, I feel like I’m only as good as my blocking, so I’m going to continue to go out there and make plays. The blocking has been good. It’s just one block away. Hopefully, we get that this weekend.”

Wilson’s mind-set is to dominate every week, regardless of who else is active, but acknowledged Williams “was a big part of the offense. Guys will have to come in and step up and so we can take his load. It’s going to be a challenge for our room, but I think we’re up for it.”

So will we see another high-five touchdown in 2019? No. But not because Grant or Wilson don’t believe they’ll break one.

“We wouldn’t do the high-five again,” Grant said. “We’d probably do something else, try to get that to go viral. We’ve got a lot of stuff in store. We just need to get the opportunity to do it.”

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Adam Beasley has covered the Dolphins for the Miami Herald since 2012, and has worked for the newspaper since 2006. He is a graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Communications and has written about sports professionally since 1996.
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