The last time Ryan Tannehill won a game as the Dolphins starting quarterback, Sept. 23 against Oakland, he had the luxury of throwing to one of the AFC’s deepest receiving groups, with Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola, DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant healthy and available.
This week, his arsenal could include two players who began the season on the practice squad (Leonte Carroo and newly promoted Isaiah Ford), one who was unemployed two weeks ago (Brice Butler) and perhaps only one fully healthy receiver from the aforementioned quintet.
Attrition has diminished the Dolphins in several positions, with receiver high on the list. Coach Adam Gase said it will be a “bonus” if Amendola plays this week, meaning the team isn’t counting on his injured knee healing in time for Sunday’s home game against Buffalo.
Wilson and Grant are on injured reserve, and Parker — though more likely than not to play Sunday — isn’t fully healthy because of a shoulder injury that necessitated he wear a non-contact jersey in practice Wednesday.
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Stills, meanwhile, has seen his receptions drop from 58 (for 847 yards) last season to 20 for 332 this season.
Gase is frustrated about “how are we not hooking up with [Stills] more. The [five-game] stretch Ryan left, we had a few opportunities but something else often happened. We have to be careful not forcing it to him. Last week, we forced it to him. When it’s there, we take it and when it’s not, we progress and move to something else. He’s been so effective down the field with big plays and teams are doing a good job taking it away. I’m probably more frustrated than he is.”
Meanwhile, Gase admitted he’s not in position to use several plays on his offensive call sheet that were designed specifically for Wilson and Grant.
“Guys [available at receiver] right now — they are not the same,” Gase said. “Those two guys [Wilson and Grant] were able to be in the backfield, the slot. They had a lot of variety. We have taller guys [now], more long striders — not the quickness those guys have.”
If Amendola doesn’t play Sunday, their third through fifth receivers — in some order — will be three players who weren’t on the 53-man roster in October: Carroo, Butler and Ford.
Ford, the former seventh-round pick who missed his rookie season with a knee injury but impressed during this past spring’s offseason program, was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster Wednesday when Grant was placed on injured reserve.
“I’m humbled for the opportunity,” he said, cracking that his “patience has been tested since entering the draft” in 2017.
Gase said Ford has been working both outside and in the slot and ramped up his work on the outside because “he was trying to avoid what I did last week, bringing in someone else to play outside.” (The Dolphins bypassed Ford during their bye week to sign Butler, who had been released by the Cowboys.)
Gase said Ford “has developed very quickly coming off [the 2017 knee] injury, did a lot of good things in practice. He didn’t have a ton of opportunity in preseason games.”
THIS AND THAT
Center Travis Swanson missed practice with an ankle injury sustained in the Colts game. Gase said the Dolphins will determine Friday if he has improved.
For now, Jake Brendel remains at center, with Ted Larsen at left guard, though Larsen was limited Wednesday with his neck injury. Wesley Johnson and Isaac Asiata are also available.
The Dolphins like how Brendel has played with each opportunity. “I thought Jake did well,” Gase said.
▪ The Dolphins on Sunday will see defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who was cut Oct. 2 after an expletive-filled sideline argument with defensive line coach Kris Kocurek about playing time.
Gase didn’t want to discuss Phillips Wednesday beyond saying, “He’s getting an opportunity to play with a good group and that defense is playing well.”
▪ The Dolphins liked quarterback Josh Allen coming out of Wyoming, and they will see him Sunday for Buffalo, which selected him seventh overall this past April.
Asked what impressed him about Allen during the draft process, Gase said: “Besides size and arm strength, his athletic ability was surprising to me when I started watching. That athletic ability surprises people because of his size [6-5].”
▪ The Dolphins added former Stanford receiver Francis Owusu (who was with them in training camp) and former South Carolina and Plantation High safety Chris Lammons to their practice squad.
▪ Gase stopped short of calling Xavien Howard a shutdown cornerback, though he and everyone internally are impressed by his stretch of nine interceptions in 16 games, most in the league during that time frame.
“It’s about putting that type of tape out there when people think it’s the right time to where he’s not getting any targets,” Gase said.