Barry Jackson

Here’s what changed Sunday in Dolphins’ tight end battle and where Mike Gesicki stands

Miami Dolphins rookie tight end Mike Gesicki catches a pass during training camp this past Friday. Gesicki got his most first-team work on Sunday.
Miami Dolphins rookie tight end Mike Gesicki catches a pass during training camp this past Friday. Gesicki got his most first-team work on Sunday.

Tight end Mike Gesicki received his most extensive first-team work as a Dolphin on Sunday and the results were what you might expect from the second-round rookie: very good work as a receiver and clearly room for improvement as a blocker.

Gesicki, who was paired with tight end MarQueis Gray in some first-team sets, caught two touchdown passes but also whiffed on a Torry McTyer blitz that would have been a sack in live game action.

But here’s the encouraging news, according to the Dolphins: Gesicki, whose blocking was considered a shortcoming coming out of Penn State, overall has been competent in that area through four days of camp and two days of practicing in upper pads.

“I’m very pleased where he’s at with his blocking,” tight ends coach Shane Day said Sunday. “He’s right on track. He’s really improved this spring. He’s right where I would expect him to be as a rookie.”

Is there enough physicality from him? “Absolutely,” Day said. “That’s not a concern at all. He’s been great in that area. He’s very physical and likes contact.”

The Dolphins understand there will be a learning curve with Gesicki’s blitz pickup because it “has been kind of new to him,” Day said.

As a receiver, Gesicki is “exactly as advertised,” Day said. “He made a lot of plays at Penn State and you saw the plays he’s making today. He’s just getting used to the speed of the NFL. We’re asking him to do different techniques a little different from what he did in college and he’s adjusting to it well.”

Miami Dolphins' Mike Gesicki talks about the return of Ryan Tannehill with the media after attending training camp at the Baptist Health Training Facility in Nova Southeastern University in Davie on Saturday, July 28, 2018.

Asked if starting from the outset of the regular season is realistic for a rookie tight end because of the complexities of learning the position, Day said: “It just depends on the individual. We let the whole thing play out over training camp. So far he’s handled everything we’ve given him so we’re very hopeful.”

Gesicki’s assessment of his own play?

“I think I’m doing well,” he said Saturday. “There’s no more mental errors. There’s not going to the left when you’re supposed to go right. Now, it’s just adjusting to this weather. It doesn’t feel like this over at Penn State.”

A.J. Derby had shared many of the first-team snaps with Gray during the first three days of camp, but Derby was sidelined Sunday by a foot injury, and Day said the team is still gathering information on that.

Day assessed his other tight ends:

He said fourth-round rookie Durham Smythe’s good blocking has translated from college.

And even though he had just 28 catches in four years at Notre Dame, “he’s doing exactly what we saw in the film when he had opportunities. He has good hands, he made catches in practice [at Notre Dame] and he’s doing the same thing here.”

On what’s appealing about Gray, who continues to get a lot of first-team work: “His versatility. He can play the inline tight end. He can flex out. He does a lot of stuff on special teams. He can play fullback, did that a little bit last year. His versatility to allow us to move the other guys around is crucial.

Miami Dolphins offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn was hit by a truck but is still coaching on the field with a broken leg.

“He’s good at pass protection, he’s good at special teams, he’s good at run blocking and he’s good at the routes. His ability to be able to do all those things allows us to put him wherever we want.”

On Derby: “His value is outside running routes. He just good enough as a blocker that if defenses play him a certain way, we can run the ball and also flex him out to get matchup issues as well.”

Day, overall on his group, which also includes Gavin Escobar (“we were lucky to get him”) and Thomas Duarte: “I think all six tight ends, if we needed them to play in a game, could play in a game. I feel they all are NFL tight ends.”

But it would be difficult to envision the Dolphins keeping more than four.

And the bigger question is whether any will be poised to be at least an average NFL starter, if not better than that, by early in the season, with Gesicki seemingly having the highest ceiling of the group.

Here are my news and notes from Sunday’s practice, including details on the player the Dolphins believe was a “steal” who continues to impress.

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