Barry Jackson

Last year, the Dolphins called Parker a 'monster.' Now they're trying something new.

Miami Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker (11) catches a first quarter pass against New England in the Monday Night Football game last December. His position coach said Thursday that Parker has changed considerably.
Miami Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker (11) catches a first quarter pass against New England in the Monday Night Football game last December. His position coach said Thursday that Parker has changed considerably. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Dolphins offensive assistant coaches — aside from offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains — had their annual May session with reporters on Thursday. Some notable comments:

The Dolphins are trying a new public approach with DeVante Parker. Though they appreciate how he has handled himself this offseason, they’re apparently done making effusive, grand predictions.

Last year at this time, then-offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen predicted: “I really think he’ll have a great big year, a gigantic year for us.”

Then, last August, then-receivers coach Shawn Jefferson said Parker “will be a monster. If he keeps progressing like we think we can, he’ll be invited to the Monster Bowl after the Super Bowl. His name is not DeVante; he’s a Monster.”

Parker went on to finish last season 52nd in the NFL in both receptions (57) and yards (670), 66th in yards per catch (11.8) and tied for 160th in touchdown catches (one).

With Jefferson and Christensen now in different roles on the staff, new receivers coach Ben Johnson said: “We were making these giant claims about him last year. Now just one-day-at-a-time mentality. Keep stacking good days on top of each other.”

Shawn Jefferson, Miami Dolphins WR coach, says receiver DeVante Parker "is a monster...he will be invited to the monster ball".

But Johnson made clear he’s very happy with Parker.

“I know coach [Adam] Gase has already mentioned his maturity level improving, and that’s been evident from the end of last season,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if there’s many guys that have spent more time in the building than him, whether it’s getting his health right, in the training room, in the weight room, even watching film. To me, it’s been a different guy this offseason. He understands the urgency and how important this year is.”

Regarding Parker’s willingness to play through discomfort, Johnson said: “He turned the corner two years ago at Baltimore. He was in a lot of pain that game and he understood hey, that’s what it’s going to take to play in that league.”

Tight ends coach Shane Day said he won’t be able to get a full read on rookie tight ends Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe until players are in pads in training camp.

"They have an occasional rookie bust like everybody else, but for the most part, they’ve been on it with assignments,” Day said. “They study really hard. They’re doing all the right things.”

The Dolphins selected Penn State's Mike Gesicki with the 42nd pick in Round 2 in the 2018 NFL Draft.

As a receiver — which is Gesicki’s strength — “You’ve seen him jump really high. He’s definitely got the vertical leap for sure.”

As a blocker, Gesicki is “on the right track,” Day said, while adding that aspect of his game — which most would say needs work — cannot truly be measured until padded practices in camp.

Day said when he was meeting with Smythe at the NFL Combine, “we had a lot of conversations about Anthony Fasano” — another former Notre Dame tight end that Smythe admires.

“We actually FaceTimed Fasano when we were in the train station and got him involved. It’s really good to have a role model like Fasano.” (Fasano played with the Dolphins last season but remains unsigned.)

Though Smythe has been labeled a blocking tight end by some, Day said the Dolphins see upside as a receiver: “He didn’t get targeted a lot at Notre Dame, but we saw the hands on tape. We felt in our offense with our situation, he would have a chance to be a very productive player.”

Day said A.J. Derby “has a natural receiving skill set. He’s working on developing the blocking and pass protection aspects.” And newcomer Gavin Escobar “has been a welcome addition. He can be an in-line tight end or a tight end you flex out.”

Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake is impressed with newly acquired running back Frank Gore longevity, Gore was in the league when Drake was in sixth grade.

New running backs coach Eric Studesville said of Kenyan Drake: “I was impressed with how physical he was running the ball inside, particularly in our game against Denver last year.”…. On rookie Kalen Ballage: “Physically he looks the part for sure, but there’s a lot more things that go into it. We’re at the beginning stages of developing him.”…

He said FAU rookie Buddy Howell, who’s competing to make the team as a fourth back, “is a solid, good, dependable back.”

New offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn, on why he came to the Dolphins, cracked: “Well I didn't have a job when [former Bears] coach [John] Fox was let go.”… He said of new guard Josh Sitton: “He's just a really good guard, really productive in what he does, a natural pass blocker.”… He wants left tackle Laremy Tunsil to “keep trending the way he did” late last season.

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