Some notes from Tuesday’s media session with offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen and special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi:
• Yes, electrifying rookie Jakeem Grant will handle at least some returns Sunday in Seattle. But Rizzi said he might not handle all of them.
“Whether it’s two guys, one guy, it could be situationally,” Rizzi said.
The Dolphins also are taking a long look at rookie Kenyan Drake as a punt and kickoff returner.
“It’s still fluid,” Rizzi said. “[Grant] has been taking reps all preseason. We have other options with Kenyan emerging. [Grant] will be back there at some point. It will depend on a lot of different factors. He has done such a good job. For a guy that’s never fielded a punt since high school, he’s done a good job since preseason. He’s probably fielded 10,000 punts [since the spring].”
Grant averaged 25.5 yards on four kickoff returns in preseason and 12.3 on seven punt returns.
Rizzi’s message to Grant: “Don’t let emotion get caught up [with you]. He has played in some big games. His confidence is pretty big. You have to put yourself in the moment. Don’t let the situation or the environment dictate what you’re capable of doing.”
Rizzi said Drake has been handling some punt and kickoff returns in practice. Grant didn’t return a single punt at Texas Tech and Drake returned only one at Alabama (for 19 yards).
Both Grant and Drake are experienced kickoff returners; Drake returned 19 at Alabama, with a 26.6 average and a touchdown.
Rizzi said Drake looked very good catching punts before last Thursday’s Tennessee game. He then averaged 22.5 yards on two kickoff returns during the game.
“Kenyan has a lot of confidence,” Rizzi said. “Doesn’t get shaken by much.”
• Asked what players excel in covering kickoffs and punt returns, Rizzi cited safeties Mike Thomas and Walt Aikens, running back Damien Williams and linebacker Spencer Paysinger.
“Those were core guys for us last year and continued that trend,” he said.
• What bubble player did Rizzi pound on the table to keep because of his acumen on special teams?
Rizzi cited linebacker Mike Hull.
“Mike Hull is a bubble guy coming into camp and he played as well as anyone on special teams,” Rizzi said. “Defensively as well. The numbers say that as well. He was one of the more productive players. There wasn’t a more productive guy. He got people on the ground on defense and special teams…. Here’s a guy who has been told his whole life he’s too small and all he does is go out and make plays. Every week, he earned his way onto the team.”
• Christensen said Arian Foster is the starting running back because “we felt like we wanted a veteran presence in that room. It’s kind of why we went out and found a veteran presence. This [Seattle opening] game fits him and why we got a veteran guy. We felt like he gave us the best chance from the get go, especially a road game of this magnitude.”
• Christensen said Laremy Tunsil “earned” the starting position at left guard and “he earned it the hard way. He’s not great yet but he sure is a talented guy. He keeps improving. The biggest fear you have is understand, there are going to be some negative plays [Sunday in Seattle]. You are not going to knock them around the ballpark for 75 plays.”
• Tunsil and starting right guard Jermon Bushrod are both making the transition from tackle to guard and Christensen said “the easy thing would be to put them at their natural positions. [But that] wasn’t best for the team. We felt we had to do that. If it backfired, it backfired.”
• With DeVante Parker still limited by a hamstring injury, Christensen said new receiver Justin Hunter “doesn’t know enough” to fill a prominent role “yet.”
Asked who is best equipped to be the No. 3 and No. 4 receivers if Parker cannot play Sunday, Christensen said the Dolphins would use their tight ends “a little bit,” then said “it will have to be by committee. By the end of the week, just make sure [Hunter] knows something. Just give him a limited call sheet and then obviously hope you don’t lose somebody where he’s thrust into action.”
Leonte Carroo and Grant are the other options, besides Hunter, for the third and fourth receiver jobs if Parker cannot play.
• On the decision to keep quarterback Brandon Doughty on the 53-man roster, Christensen said: “You need a third [quarterback] trained, whether he’s on your 53 or practice squad. We looked at it hard – they [Doughty and Zac Dysert, who was cut,] were really similar. It fell on Adam, which way you want to go. Brandon – we feel like he’s a good young guy. Long way to go.”