Barry Jackson

Dolphins face tough decision with a player that Gase is a ‘big fan’ of

Miami Dolphins cornerback Cordrea Tankersley (30) follows receiver Jakeem Grant (19) during a training camp practice last week. The Dolphins will try to find an offensive role for Grant even though they have four other established veteran receivers.
Miami Dolphins cornerback Cordrea Tankersley (30) follows receiver Jakeem Grant (19) during a training camp practice last week. The Dolphins will try to find an offensive role for Grant even though they have four other established veteran receivers. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

The Dolphins face pending decisions on several positions that might cause some uneasiness, including deciding between rookie kickers and settling on a starting cornerback opposite Xavien Howard.

But here’s a good decision looming: How to create playing time for Jakeem Grant because of quality depth at receiver.

When the Dolphins signed both Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson, it meant that barring injuries, Grant couldn’t necessarily count on a sizable dose of offensive snaps, despite proving late last season that he can inject speed and playmaking ability into Miami’s lineup. The question is whether he can count on even a smaller dose of regular snaps.

Asked Monday if Grant did enough in December (10 catches for 188 yards and two touchdowns) and throughout this summer to warrant offensive snaps this season, Gase said:

“We’ll just kind of see how it plays out. He’s going to have some kind of role. He did a lot of good stuff. I’m a big fan. The more receivers, the better.”

Grant, who has had a pretty good camp, missed the end of Monday’s practice with a minor leg injury sustained previously. He has said this summer that he doesn’t resent Miami signing two veteran receivers to supplement Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker.

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase says everyone needs to earn their position in training camp regardless of what they did last season.

“Typically when you get two guys to sign with a team, of course you’re going to wonder where you fit in,” Grant said this summer. “My main focus was, ‘Okay, they’re going to bring two guys in? It’s time to compete. It’s time to bring out every trick in the book and show these guys that I belong on the field.’ I was happy actually, because I’m a guy that likes to compete.”

Grant played 131 snaps on offense last season and 92 of those were passing plays. It might be difficult to carve out much more than that if the top four receivers stay healthy.

“When they brought in Albert (Wilson) and I saw him for the first time, I was like that’s a guy that’s almost the same height as me. So I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to compete.’ That just added fuel to my fire, not just because those guys came in but because I want to get out there and show coach that I have the big-play ability and I am a receiver and not just a specialist.”

As a returner last season, Grant’s averages dropped from 2016 in punt returns (8.3 yards to 7.6) and kickoff returns (23.1, 22.8), which ranked him 17th in the league on punt returns and 8th on kickoff returns. But he proved more sure-handed than in 2016.

Miami Dolphins running back Frank Gore comments on co-starting with Kenyan Drake in the Fins first preseason game this Thursday.

The Dolphins might end up using Amendola on punt returns close to the goal-line, but Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi insisted he has confidence in Grant returning punts when Miami is backed up close to its end zone.

“I trust Jakeem Grant because I know the work and time he’s put in,” Rizzi said. “I know where he’s come and how far he’s come in terms of the football IQ and the decision-making, so I don’t have any issues with Jakeem at all in those situations. That’s definitely some work that he’ll get in the preseason, in those 10-yard going in punts that we call them.”

THIS AND THAT

Davon Godchaux started at defensive tackle during team drills for the fourth consecutive day, instead of Jordan Phillips and next to Akeem Spence. Phllips had a sack on Brock Osweiler on Monday.

Defensive end William Hayes (hamstring) and center Jake Brendel (calf) remained out. Tight end A.J. Derby returned to practice after missing more than a week with a foot injury. Receiver Isaiah Ford (shoulder) returned to practice but wore a non-contact red jersey.

Osweiler ended a streak of four consecutive sessions without an interception. He threw a poorly-thrown ball that Taveze Calhoun picked off.

Dolphins rookie kickers Jason Sanders and Greg Joseph both have strong legs, and Joseph kicked a 61-yard field goal on a day he hit all six of his field goal attempts.

Miami Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake comments on co-starting with Frank Gore Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Bucs in the Fins first preseason game.

Tight end Durham Smythe opened with the starters, in a three-tight end set with Mike Gesicki and MarQueis Gray, and later caught a touchdown. Gase said Symthe “needs to get used to going against starters” the quality of Cam Wake and others.

Though Robert Quinn’s biggest asset is his ability to run the passer –he had another sack on Monday - Gase made clear that “he’s a good run defender.”

Monday’s practice included drops by Kalen Ballage, Kenny Stills, Ford and Thomas Duarte and a long Ryan Tannehill pass that fell to the turf because Stills – who was wide open - didn’t run hard on the route.

Tom Heckert Jr., who spent the first 10 years of his long NFL front-office career with the Dolphins, died Sunday night at 51 after being diagnosed with a blood disorder earlier this summer.

Heckert was a scout for the Dolphins beginning in 1991 and was promoted to director of pro personnel in 2000. He was general manager of the Eagles and Browns and had been serving a senior personnel advisor for the Broncos.

His father, Tom Heckert Sr., 79, was a personnel executive for the Dolphins from 1989 to 2007.

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