For most of the Dolphins’ rookie draft picks, their first NFL journey has been something of an emotional roller coaster.
Receiver DeVante Parker has gone from dominating May practices to undergoing foot surgery in June to barely playing at all in October.
Jamil Douglas has gone from starting at right guard to being benched. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips has gone from producing Miami’s only sack in the first two weeks to being inactive in Week 3 to last week playing the most snaps of any backup defensive tackle.
Cornerback Bobby McCain has gone from not playing to likely playing a lot on Sunday against Houston, with Brice McCain listed as doubtful with a sprained knee and highly unlikely to play.
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And running back Jay Ajayi has gone from struggling for part of training camp, to flashing briefly, to sustaining a rib injury that has robbed him of half of his rookie season. Meanwhile, this has been a developmental year for cornerback Tony Lippett — who hasn’t played at all but drew interim coach Dan Campbell’s praise Friday — and practice squad safety Cedric Thompson.
So Miami still isn’t quite sure which of these seven draft picks will make an impact over the season’s final 11 games.
Parker, whom the Dolphins were thrilled to snag 14th overall in the draft, said he has been fully recovered from June foot surgery for weeks. But he played only six snaps last Sunday against Tennessee. Coaches believe Rishard Matthews (60 snaps Sunday) warrants a lot more playing time than Parker.
“It’s tough,” Parker said. “I need better technique, stick to it every play. They want me to be more consistent.”
Among first-round receivers, Oakland’s Amari Cooper (299 offensive snaps), Philadelphia’s Nelson Agholor (269 snaps) and the Colts’ Phillip Dorsett (106 snaps) have all played more than Parker (88 snaps). Chicago’s Kevin White and Baltimore’s Breshad Perriman haven’t played because of injuries.
Coach Dan Campbell said he feels no pressure to play Parker because of his draft status.
Campbell said Parker is “competing with Rishard Matthews. Rishard is a beast right now. So he’s going to have to really, really push himself to pass Rishard up …
“We’re going to try to work [Parker] in because he has a unique skill set. We’re just trying to get him to become the football player we believe he can be. He’s a flash player right [now]. As soon as those flashes start showing up a lot more often, that’s when you feel good about getting him on the field.”
Phillips, meanwhile, played 26 snaps Sunday and is back on track after a poor practice performance led to him being deactivated in Week 3 against Buffalo.
In a one-on-one meeting, Campbell told Phillips that he’s “maturing.”
Phillips said he has graded out well against the run, “especially last week” but has graded out “average” as a pass-rusher: “I need to start making more plays.”
Bobby McCain flashed playmaking skills at Memphis (11 interceptions combined the past two seasons) and “that should translate [to the NFL],” he said. “If you’ve been a playmaker your whole life, that’s not going to stop now.”
He played only 50 defensive snaps all season — 40 of them last Sunday after Brice McCain’s injury — and is expected to get considerable work Sunday.
“From the day he stepped foot here he’s shown the ability to make plays on the ball,” defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. “He’s like every other rookie; he’ll make a play where you’ll say, ‘It’s great that he saw that,’ and then the next one you’re like, ‘OK, he’s a rookie.’ We’re still fighting through that some.”
As for Douglas, he allowed the most quarterback hurries in the league during his four starts at right guard and now sits behind Billy Turner. “I’ve got to get better at everything,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ajayi has said he probably would have been ready to play in the third game if the Dolphins hadn’t placed him on short-term injured reserve.
Ajayi was permitted to begin practicing this week and is eligible to play in Miami’s eighth game, Nov. 10 at Buffalo. Campbell said he looks good.
“I’m a back that prides himself on not being brought down by one guy,” Ajayi said.
VERNON FINED $37K
The NFL fined defensive end Olivier Vernon a combined $37,363 for two roughing-the-passer penalties against Tennessee, but Vernon has appealed and the hearing will be held next week.
▪ Besides Brice McCain (doubtful), the Dolphins’ injury report also listed 10 players as probable, including Mike Pouncey, Cam Wake and Brent Grimes.
▪ Cornerback Kareem Jackson headlines Texans players who will miss Sunday’s game. Linebacker Jadeveon Clowney is questionable.