Armando Salguero

DeVante Parker bad practice day like Dolphins career in a nutshell

Miami Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker is well covered by rookie safety Minkah Fitzpatrick during training camp.
Miami Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker is well covered by rookie safety Minkah Fitzpatrick during training camp.

DeVante Parker jammed a finger on his right hand midway through practice Sunday morning. The injury is minor enough that he remained on the field and finished the session, but significant enough that when he signed an autograph for a military veteran afterward, he did it with his left hand.

The hand was banged up enough that Parker did not practice on Monday.

So that’s some perspective on how Parker started this week.

Here’s more perspective: One Dolphins coach privately said he thought Parker had a good Sunday practice. And the Dolphins believe Parker is now fully immersed in two receiver spots rather than just one.

Me? I missed that good practice.

Because my eyes saw Parker fail to make any catches in team drills despite being targeted at least three times and maybe more. Each time, cornerback Xavien Howard had Parker not only covered, but blanketed. There was practically no separation from Parker.

And on a quick throw to the outside, Parker had Howard behind when the ball came his way. But instead of working back to the football, Parker simply stood there waiting for the ball to come to him. Howard reached around from behind and easily knocked the pass down.

I wanted to talk with Parker after practice and get his take on what happened. He declined to talk and walked away.

And, I get it, maybe Parker didn’t want to talk about a rough practice. Maybe he’s tired of reading how he’s not living up to potential and has given up on the media -- even those of us who have tried to be fair to him.

But to me, this practice was DeVante Parker’s three-plus seasons with the Dolphins in a nutshell.

It was Parker suffering a minor injury and not being able to rise above it and perform at a high level. It was Parker having no answer for the uninspiring performance afterward.

It was Parker encountering hardship and adversity. But not actually overcoming hardship and adversity.

Not winning.

You’ll recall a few years ago, Parker seemed to ride a roller coaster in which he would show great promise on one pass or in one game and then get hurt, after which his play would drop off the table.

The Dolphins figured out Parker simply wasn’t treating his body as well as he should. And everyone accepted that he’d improve because he worked to correct the issue and showed promise when he recovered. It felt like progress.

No, Parker never actually delivered a breakout season. But there was hope.

The hope was at a zenith last year when then-receivers coach Shawn Jefferson promised Parker would become “a monster,” meaning really good, in 2017.

Except it didn’t work out.

Parker actually dipped to a career low one touchdown grab last season. His yards per catch was the worst of his three NFL seasons. His catch percentage (catches divided by targets) was lower than it was the previous year.

So in multiple categories of importance by which receivers are measured, Parker actually regressed.

(And this is where Parker could point out he was catching the football from Jay Cutler rather than Ryan Tannehill. But the problem with that is Cutler forced the ball more often to Parker to give him a chance to make more plays than Tannehill ever did).

Fast forward to this year. I feel like we’ve started in the same spot we were last season. We’re still waiting for Parker to break out. People are vouching for him -- this time it’s Kenny Stills who’s serving as something of a big brother for Parker.

Stills is predicting Parker is going to do big things this year. The hope here is that Stills is right.

But logic suggests if Parker is going to do big things in the regular season, he’d start by performing well in practice.

He’d catch a lot of passes. He hasn’t.

He’d win about as often as he losses against Howard. He rarely does.

He’d at least show glimpses. He’d have even one practice that observers could point to as the example of the potential Parker can reach at times, even if not all the time.

But the Dolphins have had 12 practices this training camp. We’re still waiting for that eye-opening practice from DeVante Parker.

Parker has had one obvious good moment this training camp. It came early last week when he leaped higher than a couple of defenders and caught a pass in traffic for a red zone touchdown. The play almost stopped practice as teammates and even a couple of coaches celebrated.

Great moment.

But fleeting.

And now more perspective: Parker wants to succeed. He’s working to be good. There’s nothing lazy or uninterested about him. That’s not the problem.

The problem is all the hard work and big hopes have yet to pay consistent dividends. The problem is he has not often (never?) produced when he’s hurt.

And time is running out because the season begins in a month.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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