Last week was a strange one for DeVante Parker and by strange I mean bad.
First, offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen talked about the Miami Dolphins wide receiver in terms of lacking “the edge that he had coming out of training camp.” Coach Adam Gase followed that up by explaining that sometimes young receivers take a while for everything to come together for them and he’s seen a similar situation when he coached Demaryius Thomas in Denver because it took Thomas a couple of years to get it.
Except Gase said the same exact thing about Parker one year ago. And now it’s a year later. And it’s Parker’s third NFL season. And we’re still waiting.
Then game day came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And that was a disaster for Parker.
I told you in the previous post that Kenny Stills had a career kind of day that was simply outstanding. Parker had the opposite kind of day.
Parker was second on the team with nine targets because, well, Jay Cutler likes to throw to him. But Parker rewarded Cutler with only four catches for 26 yards.
Parker had a ball bounce off his hands and into the hands of a defensive back. Interception.
Parker also tripped as he tried to run a route in the end zone and instead of being there when the football came to him, he was face-planted in the grass. So the Tampa Bay defensive back covering him was thus in position to catch the football instead. Interception.
For the season, Dolphins quarterbacks have a rating of 77.9 while targeting Parker, according to ProFootballFocus. Stills, by comparison, leads the team as Dolphins quarterbacks have a rating of 117.4 when targeting him.
Gase put responsibility on both Parker and Cutler for the first interception — the one that should have been a touchdown.
“I wish his route was a little bit cleaner on the one in the end zone; but I think it’s kind of like one of those things where I wish Jay would have thrown a little bit sooner,” Gase said. “It was just probably the look we got in practice wasn’t exactly like that, but it was pretty close. We had the look we wanted. We’ve got to hook up on that and both of those guys can be a little better on that.”
That’s Gase’s expert opinion. My inexpert opinion is Parker was more the culprit because all he has to do is keep his feet and even if Cutler throws late, he is still there to catch a TD pass.
And here is where we get into what is wrong with DeVante Parker:
The common belief both within the Dolphins organization and around the league is that Parker, who missed three games with an ankle injury, simply doesn’t play well when he’s not fully healthy. And as most NFL players are rarely fully healthy because professional football is violent, it stands to reason one of two things has to happen:
Parker either has to toughen up and learn to play well through the pain.
Or ... Parker has to hope he’s never injured.
It’s hard to expect the latter. But there’s no doubt Parker can do damage when his body is 100 percent and he’s feeling good and fresh — like when he was in training camp and early in the season.
“I thought he looked like a guy who wanted to be great,” Christensen said.
But then the injury occurred and things changed …
“… there’s nothing worse than being a receiver and having some nagging injury that you just don’t feel great,” Christensen said. “I haven’t changed my opinion of a guy who can be a really, really fine player, and he is still doing some things really well. … but I think sometimes with those guys who are speed guys and outside guys, that you get a nagging thing and even if it’s little, you just don’t feel 100 percent. I’d say that that’s the reason.”
So Parker has to get tougher. He has to play better through whatever nagging issue is bothering him now.
Yeah, easy to say. Hard for it to happen.
Some folks believe getting tougher can be learned. Others would say guys either have it in them or they simply do not. I don’t know which is right and I don’t know whether Parker can solve the problem.
But I do know this:
If it continues the rest of this season, the Dolphins absolutely will include it in their evaluation of what Parker is when they begin to consider his long-term viability on the team.
The team has already paid Kenny Stills. The team has held off on giving Jarvis Landry a contract extension but must make a decision on him after this season.
The belief has been the Dolphins could gauge how things went this season with Landry and Parker before committing to paying either one. If Parker were to break out and become a No. 1 receiver, the need to pay Landry as a No. 1 receiver would fade.
But Parker has so far not emerged as a No. 1-type receiver.
And so, cha-ching, that signals good news for Landry, who is again leading the team in receptions.
This doesn’t mean the Dolphins have to get rid of Parker next season. He is signed through 2018. But the chances of him getting a big extension before the 2018 season begins are practically zero at this stage. Why?
Because the last few weeks in general and last week in particular were revealing.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero