Barry Jackson

Grant emerges, fulfills his Cutler dream; Dolphins personnel nuggets

Wide receiver Jakeem Grant catches a pass during a drill at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Florida, August 15, 2016.
Wide receiver Jakeem Grant catches a pass during a drill at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Florida, August 15, 2016. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Dolphins notes after Tuesday’s practice:

• Jay Cutler’s impressive first practice was obviously the major storyline in the final practice before Thursday’s preseason opener against Atlanta. But this was No. 2:

Jakeem Grant’s emergence as a receiving threat. Grant has improved appreciably in the past week, and he caught two long touchdown passes on Tuesday - one from Brandon Doughty in team drills and one from Cutler in one-on-one drills.

And Grant revealed afterward that growing up as a teenager, he actually dreamed about catching balls from Cutler.

“For him to throw balls to me, it brings back childhood memories of me wishing I could catch a ball from him,” Grant said. “Today I did. He threw me a good one-on-one ball versus Walt [Aikens], led it right out there, and all I had to do was run under it, and that's exactly what I wanted to do as a kid. For him throwing me balls one-on-one and me catching a touchdown was like a dream come true. He is a great quarterback. It's an honor to be able to be on the same team as him.”

Grant played only 19 offensive snaps last season and didn’t catch a pass. But offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen has said the Dolphins wants to give Grant a more substantive role in the offense.

Moving from the slot to an outside receiver position has helped, coach Adam Gase said.

“He feel comfortable, understands what he's supposed to do,” Gase said. “Slot is a lot harder than people realize. It's working off the [defensive back] a lot. Putting him out there on the outside is letting him use his strength, quickness off the ball, vertical speed. When he makes a cut, he creates separation. When he gets ball in open space, it’s a dangerous situation for the defense. I see a guy who's very focused.

“It's been good so far. His strength is his speed and quickness. Him moving outside allows him to do that. Playing against corners that are 6-2, all of a sudden he makes one move and you get by him. He's a hard guy to cover.”

• With Malcolm Lewis sidelined by a concussion, the Dolphins are now without three receivers who had been expected to compete for the No. 6 job - Rashawn Scott (foot), Isaiah Ford (knee) and Lewis. But the Dolphins are feeling better about their likely fourth and fifth receivers - Leonte Carroo and Grant.

Carroo, who caught a touchdown in red zone drills on Tuesday, “has way better grip on the playbook, playing way faster,” Gase said.

“His practice speed has been light years from last year. You can see why we drafted him. Strong hands, big guy, physical at the line of scimmage. His quickness has gotten better.”

• Running back Jay Ajayi participated in some individual drills for the first time since suffering a concussion a week ago but remains in the concussion protocol system.

Also sidelined, besides the aforementioned receivers: safety Nate Allen (groin), linebacker Neville Hewitt (shoulder) and left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who has been away from the team since Saturday for personal reasons. Gase reiterated Tunsil is “fine.”

• Gase said he had no update on whether there will be surgery for Ryan Tannehill, who attended practice and spoke a lot to Cutler. Gase said Tannehill will remain involved.

• With Mike Pouncey continuing to be held out of team drills, Kraig Urbik opened with the starters at center, with Anthony Steen at left guard in place of injured Ted Larsen, who will miss a substantial part of the season with a biceps injury.

Gase said he would defer to offensive line coach Chris Foerster about lineup decisions...

Rookie fifth-round pick Davon Godchaux opened with the starters, in place of Jordan Phillips, for the fifth consecutive practice, but Phillips also received first-team work.

• Former Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas attended Miami’s practice on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Tuesday praised Thomas’ former teammate, Jason Taylor, three days after Taylor complimented Belichick in Taylor’s Hall of Fame induction speech.

To recap, Taylor said during his speech Saturday: “I never had the pleasure of playing for him, but I had the pleasure of facing his teams for twice a year for more than a decade. Bill [Belichick], you put a target on my back, my front, my sides, and as a result of that, I never felt more respected.”

Belichick told Patriots reporters on Tuesday that Taylor mentioning him in his speech was “tremendously flattering. Believe me, he didn’t have nearly as much as respect for me as I had for him. There hasn’t been a player that we gameplanned for like we did for Jason Taylor. Tremendous player, very very disruptive, and literally a guy we had to account for on every single play. I can remember with Charlie [Weis], with Josh [McDaniels] always making sure we accounted for him on every single snap.

“Hell, half of the reason he’s in the Hall of Fame is because of what he did against us.”

Belichick was just getting started: “Tackles were an issue, tackles for a loss were an issue, but the bigger issue was tackles for loss that caused fumbles and then scoop-and-scores off that. In the passing game, sacks were an issue. It was the strip sacks and the scoop-and-scores off the strip sacks that were even a bigger problem. Batted balls. They were a problem. Tipped balls that went for interceptions. “Those were the kind of things that kept you up all week when playing Taylor.”

Taylor produced 14 sacks, three interceptions and a touchdown in 28 games against New England.

If you missed it from Monday night, here’s my piece on league reaction on Miami’s signing of Cutler, how Adam Gase helped fix him, the NFL vet who calls him the worst QB in the league and some eye-opening Cutler numbers.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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