Barry Jackson

Could Dolphins finally have a skilled red-zone threat at tight end? The signs are encouraging

Miami Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki would walk Tannehill’s dog if asked

Miami Dolphins tight end and second round draft pick Mike Gesicki is listening to quarterback Ryan Tannehill at training camp, and if Tannehill ask him to walk his dog he will.
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Miami Dolphins tight end and second round draft pick Mike Gesicki is listening to quarterback Ryan Tannehill at training camp, and if Tannehill ask him to walk his dog he will.

As Ryan Tannehill and Mike Gesicki connected several times in practice this week, including multiple touchdowns in red zone drills, the question kept popping to mind:

Does a franchise that has never had a tight end with 80 catches or 1000 yards in a season finally have one?

It’s far too soon to know, but the accelerated progress in Tannehill’s and Gesicki’s on-field chemistry had those in attendance dreaming of the intoxicating possibilities.

Using his 6-6 height and long arms, Gesicki rose in the end zone to grab a touchdown over 6-3 linebacker Stephone Anthony on Friday.

That was one of at least four Tannehill-to-Gesicki connections on Friday and completed a week of practices that included at least two other touchdown receptions in red zone drills for the second-round rookie.

Gesicki’s first-team work has increased dramatically this week, as A.J. Derby remains sidelined with a foot injury. Gesicki often has been paired with MarQueis Gray in two tight-end sets.

“Once we hit the red area period third or fourth day of camp, you see Mike started really feeling comfortable,” coach Adam Gase said. “We had more success on the field, red zone, with those two guys developing some chemistry.

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase talks about what to expect at Saturday's scrimmage at Hard Rock Stadium, for the players and the fans.

“Him taking so many reps in the spring and camp was good for him. He’s playing fast, not thinking. I like the way they’re working together and making plays. Ryan has had some good throws and Mike has done well in tight areas. He’s a good target that can go up and get the ball.”

Gesicki said he’s so eager to follow Tannehill’s instructions that he cracked Friday that if Tannehill “told me to go to his house and walk his damn dog, I would be there. If he’s giving me any coaching points or tips or communicate with me how he wants me to run a specific route, I’m going to do it. He’s done a phenomenal job being a mentor, someone I can lean on and talk to. He’s very detail oriented, he’s telling me exactly how to place my foot, how to stack the defender and go and get the ball.”

The Dolphins thought Julius Thomas would be their best red-zone tight end target in years last season, but he didn’t have many opportunities because of Miami’s offensive deficiencies, caught only three touchdowns and was released.

One of those Tannehill texts was delivered at 5:15 in the morning during the offseason program, with a details about a “specific release” that Tannehill wanted Gesicki to execute.

There’s still work to be done; Kiko Alonso on Friday broke up one goal-line throw to Gesicki that wasn’t a great pass by Tannehill but still could have been caught.

But Gesicki, in other instances, already has displayed an ability to rise above linebackers or safeties and come down with the ball.

“If it’s up there, it’s yours,” he said. “That’s the mentality you have to have. That’s one of the reasons I’m here. If I’m out going to be out on the field, I’ve got to be able to make those plays. They’re giving me an opportunity to high point the football. That’s something I’ve been able to do in years past.”

Gesicki caught 75 percent of contested catches (9 for 12) last season, best in the nation. His nine touchdowns at Penn State in 2017 were more than any Dolphins tight end has ever caught in a season.

Gase said as a former basketball player, Gesicki “has unique timing, knows how to box a guy out, knows how to keep his position” in the end zone and can ward off defenders “if a guy is draped on him.”

As for Gesicki’s blocking, which was considered a shortcoming at Penn State, coaches say they’ve been pleased, though he whiffed on at least two blitzes this week.

“It’s something obviously I need to continue to work on,” he said. “I am having some good blocks here and there and I’m still learning from the other ones. It wasn’t going to happen overnight and it’s still not going to happen overnight.”

Miami Dolphins tackle Ja'Wuan James enjoys seeing the rookie tight end Mike Gesicki in training camp, he see him as a quiet fast learning who will help him block.

THIS AND THAT

Cornerback Torry McTyer opened with the starters for the second consecutive day and the fourth time in eight practices and has emerged as the slight leader in the battle with Cordrea Tankersley and Tony Lippett for the starting job opposite Xavien Howard.

Preseason games will go a long way toward determining the starter.

Gase said McTyer, undrafted in 2017 out of UNLV, has been the best of those cornerbacks, aside from Howard, who might have been Miami’s best playersthrough eight days of camp.

At cornerback, Gase said who gets first team reps “might be who had the best day the day before.”

Derby, defensive end William Hayes (hamstring), receiver Isaiah Ford (shoulder) and center Jake Brendel (calf) missed practiced. Gase said he’s not worried about Hayes being prepared for the regular season if he misses part of camp.

Admission is free for the Dolphins’ scrimmage at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium.

Ryan Tannehill had a strong day, ending a streak of interceptions in three consecutive practices and five picks over those three practices. Brock Osweiler and David Fales also were sharp, with neither throwing an interception.

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard impressive with three interceptions at practice and can't wait to brag in the locker room.

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