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NOTEBOOK: Veteran WR Gaffney Adds Experience To Offense; Other Notes

Posted Oct 2, 2012

Florida native happy to suit up for former division foe.

Once a chief rival of the Miami Dolphins, veteran wide receiver Jabar Gaffney is now wearing the aqua and orange after being signed to a free agent contract today.

The Jacksonville native spent three seasons (2006-08) with the New England Patriots replaced Legedu Naanee on the receiving corps. Gaffney is hoping to become a third viable threat in the passing game for rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill and is coming off his best season, having caught 68 passes for 947 yards and five touchdowns for the Washington Redskins.

“They spread it around so there’s a lot of chances for big plays and a lot of other things within this offense,” Gaffney said of Miami’s system under Head Coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. “I’ve got to learn my plays first and we’ll take it from there.”

Back in 2007, Gaffney was part of the Patriots team that went undefeated in the regular season and reached Super Bowl XLII, where they lost 17-14 to the New York Giants. He was originally drafted in the second round (33rd) overall by the Houston Texans and spent his first four seasons with them. After leaving New England, the former Florida Gator played with the Denver Broncos in 2009 and 2010.

After last week’s stellar outing by wide receivers Brian Hartline and Davone Bess against the Arizona Cardinals, the chance to add a third receiver of Gaffney’s caliber became more appealing for the Dolphins. He had worked out for the team before the season opener at Houston but was still less than 100 percent recovered from the quad injury he suffered during a preseason practice with New England that led to his release on August 27th. Now he feels fine and is eager to get on the field Sunday at Cincinnati and Sherman and Philbin are just as eager to see what he can contribute.

“Jabar had great experience up there when he was in New England and he certainly knows how to practice and how to prepare,” Sherman said. “So we’re excited about the culture that he’s coming from and so we think it’ll be a smooth transition for him. He’s had some pretty good seasons and done some really good things and we hope he can replicate that here.”

Sherman also likes the fact that Gaffney played in a West Coast offense last year with the Redskins so he should be familiar with some of the routes and schemes being run here, even though the terminology is different with each team. That’s where Bess, Hartline and Tannehill will be able to help out during practice and in the meeting rooms.

Hartline, who set a franchise record with 253 receiving yards and a touchdown on 12 catches last week, admitted he’s looking forward to picking Gaffney’s brain and seeing what he can learn from someone in his 11th season in the league, while at the same time getting Gaffney up to speed on the playbook. He and Bess know just how much having a viable third threat will benefit them in the long run.

“The more weapons we’ve got obviously the better and that’s what the objective is and the goal is,” said Bess, who had a career-high 123 receiving yards on seven catches in the 24-21 overtime loss to the Cardinals. “We need to do a great job at winning the matchups and obviously week in and week out the defenses are going to start keying and start trying to take guys away and you need everybody to show up.”

Wide receiver Anthony Armstrong played with Gaffney last year in Washington and the two have become very good friends, with Gaffney flashing a big smile and tapping Armstrong’s name plate above his locker when asked who he was familiar with on the roster. The two dress right next to each other before practice now.

Getting a chance to watch Gaffney up close in practice and in games on a regular basis gave Armstrong a good appreciation for his skills and for what he brings to an offense.

“The guy’s really consistent and he’ll be where he’s supposed to be and make the catches that he has to make,” Armstrong said. “He’ll be able to help move the chains and improve on our third down [percentage] and he has some red-zone ability as well. That will be a place he can also contribute.”

This will be new territory for Gaffney from a mental standpoint because he had never been sidelined with an injury before in his career, so he’ll be looking to pass that first test against a good Bengals secondary. He wants to learn the plays and feel confident that his rehab was a success.

Gaffney is impressed with the talent level at his position with Bess, Hartline, Armstrong, Marlon Moore and Rishard Matthews and he’s looking forward to adding a different dynamic. He’s also looking forward to putting on that Dolphins jersey considering he played his high school and college football in the Sunshine State.

“Miami always had tough teams. Those were some of the worst weeks of practice when we had to play the Dolphins when I was in New England,” Gaffney said. “Coach (Bill Belichick) was always preaching how tough they are, especially the defense. Now that I’m here it’s a good team and it’s good to be on this side.”

DOLPHINS TIDBITS

Miami’s run defense is now the top-ranked unit in the National Football League, allowing an average of just 2.4 yards per carry. … Tannehill was nominated for the Pepsi Max NFL Rookie of the Week for his record-setting performance against the Cardinals.

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