A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Friday:
▪ How much has Jakeem Grant improved his route running in the past year?
So much so that even an opponent stopped to acknowledge it during a game.
Grant said after the two competed against each other, Carolina cornerback James Bradberry “complimented me on my routes” during Friday’s preseason game, when Grant had four catches for 45 yards.
“I’ve made a ton of growth as a route runner,” Grant said. “I want to be the best at it.”
To that end, has studied tapes of how Pittsburgh Steelers All Pro Antonio Brown runs routes “and I try to mimic what he does.”
Carolina gave Grant a cushion at the line of scrimmage because of concern about being beaten over the top by his speed.
“The way he can release off the ball, he’s hard to get hands on,” coach Adam Gase said. “He can make guys miss very quickly if you press him. That means he’s going to get by you. Now the safety might have to get involved, so you’re taking the safety out of the middle of the field, and the other side is going to become available.
“The easier way [to cover him] is ‘Just keep him in front and let’s just go tackle him.’ Him being a guy that can do punt returns and kick returns, now he has an opportunity to make guys miss in space. You can see guys being a little careful of how they play him. Plus he doesn’t have a ton of film out there to where guys are trying to feel him out in a game. That’s when it can get tough.”
His hands have been generally more reliable this offseason, though he had a drop on a red zone throw from Ryan Tannehill this week.
Dolphins coaches were smart in moving him from the slot to the boundary in the months before the 2017 season.
▪ Brock Osweiler, asked about his career arc: “Do you guys have an hour?” After a reporter said no, he cracked, good-naturedly: “Either do I.”
Entering Saturday night’s preseason game against the visiting Baltimore Ravens, Osweiler remains very much alive in the battle with David Fales for the backup job. In preseason, he’s 20 for 34 for 151 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions and a 69.6 passer rating.
“As far as competing for the backup job, that’s something I really don’t think about,” Osweiler said. “I feel like from the scrimmage to Game 1 to Game 2, the same mistakes haven’t shown up and I just try to get a little bit better each time I step out there.”
Fales, the front-runner coming into camp, is 9 for 17 for 121 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a 51.3 rating.
Bryce Petty, who entered camp as a huge long shot, is 9 for 13 for 111 yards, one touchdown, one interception and an 88.9 rating. He missed Thursday’s practice with an oblique injury, and it would be very surprising if he made the team.
▪ Among bubble players, safety Maurice Smith might have made the most compelling case of any Dolphins player so far. He had a team-high 40 snaps against Carolina, made eight tackles, picked off a pass and allowed eight yards in coverage. Pro Football Focus graded him the second-best of all NFL safeties for week two of preseason.
We’re seeing why he got meaningful playing time in the Sunday night game against Oakland before an appendectomy sidelined him in December.
▪ Cornerback Xavien Howard’s improvement since last November has been as encouraging as anything on the Dolphins –and his interception of Cam Newton on Friday was a terrific read.
But he must be conscious of penalties; he had one Friday and only two NFL cornerbacks committed more penalties than Howard’s eight last season.
Howard has told me some of the 14 pass interference and five holding penalties called against him in his final two years at Baylor were bad calls. But he didn’t take issue with last Friday’s penalty.
“At first I thought it wasn’t the right call but when I looked on film and looked back at it, I jumped a little bit early before the ball came,” he said. “It was close to me. I respect the call.”
Coaches justifiably want him to play tight coverage, even if it leaves him vulnerable to penalty calls.
“We really just [want to] have tight coverage,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if the ball is away from you. Every time I’m on the field [I just want to] be close and tight and really just play.”
▪ Greg Joseph, mounting a serious challenge to seventh-rounder Jason Sanders for the kicking job, said his 54-yarder against Carolina matched his career-long field goal. He also hit one from 54 last year at FAU.
Joseph has been exchanging text messages with last year’s Dolphins kicker, Chicago’s Cody Parkey, who tutored him in the offseason and has offered guidance and been a sounding board during training camp and preseason.
Sanders is 5 for 6 in preseason, with his miss coming from 53 yards and a long of 42. Joseph is 2 for 2 in preseason, with conversions from 48 and 54.
▪ Notable from the media’s first visit into the locker-room this season: First-rounder Minkah Fitzpatrick doesn’t yet have his own locker because he’s a rookie; he’s sharing one with sixth-round cornerback Cornell Armstrong. Rookie tight ends Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe also are sharing a locker stall. That will change when the team cuts down from 90 players to 53 on Sept. 1.…
Safety Isa Abdul Quddus, who sustained a career-ending neck injury late in the 2016 season, still has a locker stall. He hasn’t been around the team since the offseason program but has an open invitation to return in a non-player role.
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