We wrote here today about new Dolphins coordinator Matt Burke’s plan for the defense. Armando has some notes on DeVante Parker, Jay Ajayi and other things on his blog and here are some other offensive and special team nuggets from today’s first Dolphins assistant coach press availability in four months:
• The Dolphins are pressing for more from Jakeem Grant, both as a receiver and a returner.
Let’s discuss the receiver plan first. He played only 19 snaps on offense last season - dropping the only pass thrown to him - and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said the plan is to give him a bigger role.
To that end, the Dolphins have asked him to learn the outside receiver positions this offseason.
I asked Christensen if the Dolphins’ vision for Grant on offense is as a gimmick player or someone who could line up and eventually play a lot of snaps. He gave a detailed answer:
“I think both. I think he is going to be a gimmick guy. Gimmick is kind of a demeaning word but he’s so darn explosive. I think he should be a highlight film. His big plays per snap ought to be a huge number. We’re always looking for ways to get him on the field. Some of it we’ll learn how to use him better. Some of it he’ll become a better player and a more mature player and understand the offense better. We’re going to play him a little bit more outside.
“Just because he’s a little guy doesn’t mean you have to be a slot guy. Sometimes outside you can throw him a hitch out there and he can turn it into a 50-yard play. So we are looking for ways for him to be an every down player more. I don’t know that he becomes a starter, but just to be able to stick him in for chunks of time and leave him. It’s really, really hard in this league to slip a guy in there and run a reverse. It sounds good but it’s hard to do practically, and so it’s important for him to be an every down guy and for us to be able to put him in, and if we do have injuries, that he could play chunks. There’s no reason he can’t, right?
“He’s a good football player. He’s an extremely good technique kid. He has good hands. He runs good routes. He has to learn the offense better and I think he’ll do that, but look to see him maybe a little bit more outside and mix it in. We can stick him out there away from trips and get some one on ones out there. He’s a scary guy one or one. So we’re experimenting with some new things. Or different things, not new. But just some different places for him just to find a little niche for him to get a bigger role. I think we all see him having a little bit of a bigger role and getting more out of him than we did last year. He has a unique set, a unique skillset (and) a unique way of doing things.
“And some of them are really hard traits to find, as far his speed and his big play (ability), his confidence, his swagger, thinking he can score on every single play. Every time he touches the ball he thinks he can score. The other thing he has, he has to fix his protecting the ball. We’ll figure it out a little bit more and then I think you’ll see him play some bigger chunks and more snaps. He’s always going to be a little bit of a specialist but there’s no reason he can’t play some series and go for a series. There’s nothing that he can’t do. He’s a physical guy. He’s maybe the strongest guy on our team pound for pound. He’s not afraid, as you saw. There’s no reason he can’t play a bunch of snaps.”
Meanwhile, Grant has been working on fielding punts after fumbling four times in games last season. Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi commended him for flying punter Matt Darr out to Texas so Grant could work on fielding punts.
“That’s pretty impressive, so that tells you how serious he is about it,” Rizzi said. “He knows the corrections he has to make. It’s great that he’s recognized that and he’s working on it. I’ll see when we get out there for the OTAs – for OTA No. 1 – really where he is and how much he has improved, and we’ll take it from there. The one thing you can’t deny is what he did with the ball in his hands when he did have the ball. We just have to make sure his ball security is a lot better, his decision making is better. Those are things that certainly have to improve.
“I think people forget that he returned another one for a touchdown that got called back for a questionable penalty. He actually had – in the Seattle game – another long return that got called back for a penalty. So his average – his numbers – were a little bit skewed. But I’m really, really proud of him and really happy about his work ethic here in this offseason, because you can tell that he’s taking this thing seriously.”
None of the players added in the draft process were high-end returners, though UM’s Malcolm Lewis and Arkansas’ Drew Morgan have some experience on returns.
So does Rizzi expect Grant to be the returner this season (which seems highly likely)?
“I’m not going to say that,” Rizzi said. “It would be a disservice to everybody. I think I probably say the same company line every year, the 90 guys we bring in, everyone is going to get an opportunity.
“If we went out and played a game today, he would be; but let’s see where we are. We don’t play for a long time. I’m excited because I know Jakeem has worked at it so much. Jakeem was disappointed. He did not believe in his mind that, that was really the Jakeem Grant that he wants everybody to see. He’s determined to make a major jump in his game.”
• Rizzi said Jarvis Landry will continue to return some punts.
“He’s going to be back there,” Rizzi said. “He’s definitely part of the equation again.”
• The Dolphins have felt no need to bring in another kicker to compete with Andrew Franks, who was 16 for 21 on field goals and 41 for 42 on extra points. Why?
“We felt very comfortable,” Rizzi said. “I thought Andrew started off the year very strong last year. I thought he might have hit a little bit of a lull in the middle of the year, but he really finished strong. He obviously made two field goals in the playoff game in really, really tough conditions. Heck, their kicker missed a PAT in that game. Obviously (Franks) made the 55-yarder against Buffalo and the game winner. So we’re really, really happy with the way he finished the year and really are just looking (for him) to pick up from where he left off.
“We spent the whole offseason evaluating not only the free agent guys – the street free agents – but also the entire draft class. It was a unique year because three kickers got drafted – three guys we evaluated, as well. We’ll see how it goes, but my confidence in Andrew right now at this point is high based on how he finished last year.”
• Ryan Tannehill’s knee, injured in December and since healed, is a non-issue, Christensen said.
“Being out there, I don’t see him favoring it at all. He looks like the same guy. It hasn’t even been an issue. No one has talked about it.”
• Does Christensen believe Miami has enough at guard?
“We don’t want to necessarily do it by committee, but we want to have enough bodies in there, like last year, that you have to fill in and be able to do some different things,” he said. “Now we have a bunch of guys who can swing inside and play center. We added Ted Larsen who’s one of those guys who can swing inside for short periods of time and give us some center help, if we need it, and compete at the guard position.
“I feel good. I think we’ve got some good, solid players in there. I think the competition will be high, which always makes people better. I think we’ll have a ton of competition in there for that backup center, the starting guard, playing time.”
• Christensen said he’s glad the Dolphins re-signed Kenny Stills:
“It’s a huge statement by the organization. I think it’s a huge statement for Kenny. I don’t think I came in the building last offseason and I didn’t see the guy here. He’s working and he was involved and he was committed to having a good year. For that to get rewarded I think sends a great message trickling through the (organization of), ‘Work. Work, and things happen good. Things happen good and you play good football – the Miami Dolphins will take care of you.’
“I think he had probably the best year of his career. There’s a young guy who can run, he’s our kind of guy, he’s our kind of player – take care of him and keep him around. That’s huge.”
• Biggest problem on offense last year? Christensen said it became clear in the team’s postseason internal evaluation:
“The whole thing came back to a lack of number of snaps,” he said.
Miami averaged 57.4 offensive stats per game, which was lowest in the league, according to teamrankings.com.
“You could take any stat and if you multiplied it out, we were OK,” Christensen said. “We just didn’t get enough snaps. We made big plays per snap, (it) was good number. Our rushes were a good number. Even our passing efficiency was a good number. We broke down on third down, which cut down (on our snaps). And now all of a sudden I think we had the lowest number of snaps in the league, or very close to the lowest number of snaps in the league, and so our biggest thing was staying on the field, eliminate some of those penalties and minus plays and stay on the field, and then we’ll see some natural improvement just from year one to two.”
The Dolphins ranked 25th in third-down efficiency, converting 36.7 percent of their chances. By the way, they were the only team that didn’t convert a fourth down, though they attempted the fewest (four).
Please follow me on Twitter for quick updates: @flasportbuzz... Here are some nuggets on the Dolphins draft picks, if you missed one of these Friday posts.