Barry Jackson

Dolphins’ Jakeem Grant conundrum; Dolphins notes

Dolphins Jakeem Grant (19) retuns a punt ball in the second quarter as the Miami Dolphins play the Atlanta Falcons in the first preseason game at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, August 10, 2017.
Dolphins Jakeem Grant (19) retuns a punt ball in the second quarter as the Miami Dolphins play the Atlanta Falcons in the first preseason game at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, August 10, 2017. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of items from briefings with Miami’s coordinators and head coach:

• Exactly how, and how much, to use Jakeem Grant remains a work in progress.

Grant, surprisingly, didn’t field a single punt against New Orleans on Sunday. So why did Jarvis Landry get all the punt chances?

Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said Grant was supposed to field the first punt but was getting his ankle taped.

And what about the two others?

“One was a game plan [issue] and one was a coaching decision,” Rizzi said. (Grant’s tender ankle also is believed to have been a factor, though Rizzi didn’t mention this with regard to the other two punts.)

So is Landry now the primary punt returner?

“We have two punt returners,” Rizzi said. “There’s no story there. It’s a thing we’re going to do every game. It will be more of flow of the game. It will be a committee deal.”

Though Grant fumbled (and recovered) a punt late in the Jets game - after fumbling four punts last November and December - Rizzi said that was not a factor in using Landry last week. “It wasn’t part of the decision,” Rizzi said.

Grant has a 6.8 average on five punt returns this year.

Grant and Kenyan Drake each have three kickoff returns this season, with Drake averaging 23.7 yards and Grant 20.0 yards.

As for Grant’s role on offense, Adam Gase used him for a few plays on the first drive of the game but he finished with just five offensive snaps. After a dynamic preseason as a receiver, he has one catch for 12 yards and just nine offensive snaps in three games.

“With Jakeem I don't want to throw him outside the box we have him in because he's making a lot of progress,” Gase said, reminding that this is Grant’s first season playing an outside receiver role (as opposed to in the slot). “We're trying to keep bringing him along.”

Gase also conceded that Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills need to stay on the field not only because of their skills, but also because “they have a greater grasp of the variety of routes.”

• Though the guard play hasn’t been great, particularly in the running game, offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen suggested rookie Isaaac Asiata isn’t an option.

“He’s a ways away,” Christensen said. “In an ideal world, it would be his redshirt year.”

• Christensen said center Mike Pouncey has been the team’s best run blocker.

• Dolphins kicker Cody Parkey missed three field goals in his last game at Hard Rock Stadium (as a member of the Cleveland Browns), and the Dolphins planned to have him practice kicking off the stadium turf on Thursday.

But those plans were scuttled because of rain. Rizzi said the Dolphins hope he can practice kicking there on Friday.

• Defensive coordinator Matt Burke, asked to explain replacing Byron Maxwell with Cordrea Tankersley, said: “I like the way Tank had been practicing. I wanted tighter coverage – I wanted things I didn’t feel like I had been seeing.”

Burke said Maxwell has been working on the scout team, which would suggest - as Armando wrote - that Alterraun Verner is poised to play Sunday if Xavien Howard cannot play because of a shoulder injury. Gase said Howard remains day to day.

How did Tankersley play against the Saints?

“I thought he did a good job,” Burke said. “He competed. As expected, he was challenged. And there were a couple rookie mistakes and some things he’s got to clean up. But his approach to it, his confidence, he wasn’t backing off from anyone.”

• Christensen on the calls for personnel changes: “The recipe out there in the stands and on the TV is, ‘Hey we’ve got to change people, we’ve got to change schemes, we’ve got change everything. Replace this, replace that.’

Usually, in my humble history, you try to just do what you’re doing better. It’s not the system. It’s a proven system. It’s not the players. They’ve won games. You have to resist changing everything. We’ll experiment a little bit. Stay the course.”

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