When Dolphins receiver Albert Wilson caught a short pass on a third-and-6 late in the first quarter of Miami’s opener, Tennessee linebacker Kamalei Correa was positioned to stop the play short of first down. When Wilson caught a short pass against the Jets last Sunday, Jets cornerback Buster Skrine was close enough to try to get him to the ground.
But anyone familiar with Wilson’s work wasn’t surprised what happened next, in both instances.
Against Tennessee, Wilson shook Correa’s arm tackle and raced upfield for a few more yards, just enough to get the first down and prolong a drive that culminated in the Dolphins’ first touchdown of the season.
Against the Jets, Wilson easily shed Skrine’s attempted tackle on 29-yard touchdown reception, 24 of which came after the catch.
Wilson, the Dolphins’ new multidimensional sparkplug, has made a career of this sort of thing.
In fact, Wilson averaged more broken tackles per reception than any other NFL receiver the past four seasons as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, according to Pro Football Focus. He already has four broken tackles in 10 touches for the Dolphins this season.
So how does he do it? Is it speed, elusiveness or strength?
“It’s a combination of both, making a move and making them miss and not giving them a chance to fully make a good tackle on me,” Wilson said. “Yards after catch is something I really take pride in. I’m just trying to get those first downs as much as I can.”
Though he stands only 5-9 and is listed at 186 pounds, Wilson said “I’m pretty much a running back running routes out there, so when I get the ball in my hands, it’s pretty tough to tackle me. All those arm tackles, running through arm tackles is pretty much what I do. Most of those [other receivers] are more lanky guys.”
But his ability to elude or shed tacklers is uncanny.
“The one thing you notice is his lower body is thick,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “He’s strong in the lower body.”
Not only has Wilson caught six passes for 68 yards, but the Dolphins have given him four carries (for 15 yards). That’s only six fewer carries than he had in four seasons in Kansas City, where he rushed for 82 yards on 10 attempts.
“I love to do it,” he said of running the ball. “Nothing is better than getting handed the ball. But whatever coach has for me, I’m down to get it done.”
He also lined up as a Wildcat quarterback in the opener, but the play was stopped because of a Dolphins penalty.
Wilson said he had not taken a snap as a quarterback since high school in Port St. Lucie in 2010. He said he never took a Wildcat snap in his four years with the Chiefs. He never threw a pass with the Chiefs, either, though that certainly is a possibility here.
“He likes doing all of the things we’re asking him to do; we’ll keep expanding it,” said coach Adam Gase, who presented his vision of how he would use Wilson before he signed. “I think that the more that we do with him and the longer that he’s in this, it’s only going to get easier for him.
“You always want to be trying to figure out the next step, ‘What else can I do?’ He’s one of those type of guys. He’s unselfish.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Safety Reshad Jones (shoulder) was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against Oakland and said he doesn’t know if he will play. Jones was limited in practice Friday, but Gase said the fact he continues to improve “gives us a good chance” for him to play Sunday.
No other Dolphins player was listed as questionable or out, beyond those on injured reserve.
▪ Kenyan Drake so far has 32 touches from scrimmage for 136 yards, compared with 19 and 105 for Frank Gore.
Gase wants a more even split, but said the two-hour weather delay in the opener and the Jets’ defensive approach on several plays changed those plans.
“It just keeps happening when Frank is in for some reason,” Gase said of the Jets game. “We’re always going to try to keep those guys close. That’s the plan. We like when both those guys have the ball.”
Gore said watching from the sideline is “different, it’s tough. I’m a guy who’s used to being in the game. But I respect my coaches. Kenyan Drake’s a talented guy, and whenever my number’s called, I try my best to make something happen. And that’s it.”