Rookie WR Fuller Hoping To Follow In Tannehill's Shoes; Other Notes

Posted Aug 21, 2012

Now that his college quarterback has beaten the odds by winning the starting job with the Miami Dolphins, rookie wide receiver Jeff Fuller has his sights set on cementing a spot on the 53-man roster.

The 6-foot-4, 223-pound undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M made the most of his opportunity in the second preseason game last week at Carolina by catching four passes for 38 yards. His 20-yard reception over the middle of a ball thrown by fellow rookie and former Aggie Ryan Tannehill in the first half definitely caught the eye of Head Coach Joe Philbin.

“We like Jeff. He’s making steady progress,” Philbin said. “I want to say he played upwards of around 40 snaps if I’m not mistaken the other night. He obviously caught that nice ball down the middle of the field on a good protection, adjustment by Ryan and a good pickup by the offensive line and the running back. It was one of the better-executed plays that we had. … He’s a good threat down the middle of the field. He’s a good red zone threat. These next couple of weeks are important for him.”

Fuller isn’t about to rest on his laurels, not with the level of competition he is going up against among the receiver group. He learned that lesson at A&M after putting together a productive junior season only to take a small step backwards as a senior.

Back in April, Fuller quickly got over the disappointment of not getting drafted and instead saw an excellent opportunity by signing with the Dolphins. Not only was he reunited with his quarterback, but he also was reunited with his college head coach in offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and two of his assistants with the Aggies – assistant quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor and offensive line coach Jim Turner.

“I’m pretty comfortable with the offense because I have my quarterback in there so I’m more fortunate than a lot of people in my situation are,” said Fuller, who caught 233 passes for 3,092 yards and 34 touchdowns in his college career. “I felt good out there (against the Panthers) but I just need to finish stronger. Ryan and I talked before the game and he told me it was a big game for me so I just tried to step up and play big and put my best game out there.”

Tannehill is Fuller’s biggest supporter and is rooting hard for him to stick with the team because they have a built-in chemistry together. The two of them have pushed each other going back to OTAs, throughout training camp and now in the preseason.

There were more opportunities for Tannehill and Fuller to connect through the air early on in camp when they were running with the same unit, but as Tannehill thrust himself into the battle for the starting job he got more work with the first-teamers. Still, he kept a close eye on his good friend and former teammate.

“I think Jeff has improved a lot just thinking back to OTAs and minicamp. He’s really come on and made plays for us,” Tannehill said. “He’s a big body, athletic guy that can use his size across the middle especially, and even on the outside these last few games he has made some plays. I’ve always believed in Jeff and I think we can all agree that he didn’t have the senior season that he wanted to have, but he’s returning back to the guy that I think he really is. He struggled with injuries throughout his senior season and I think he’s healthy now. He’s feeling good and you’re really seeing what he can do.”

With the Dolphins running primarily out of a no-huddle at Carolina, there weren’t too many moments when Tannehill and Fuller got to look at each other before a play and share some non-verbal communication. They just did what came naturally to them at the snap of the ball.

It was when the defense was on the field and the offense was over on the sidelines discussing the previous series that the two got a chance to talk and soak in the experience. Their conversation was more about making corrections after some three-and-outs, but there was some personal banter.

“As far as him and I communicating, we stay communicating,” Fuller said. “He’s one of my good friends and I obviously grew up playing with him at A&M and I’m just having fun with him here.

DOLPHINS TIDBITS: It was a pretty energetic practice this afternoon, as it looked like the defense wanted to make an early statement. Veteran defensive tackle Paul Soliai slammed into running back Daniel Thomas behind the line of scrimmage on an early running play. … Fuller had another good outing, making a nice adjustment on a deep ball down the right sideline thrown by Matt Moore. Near the end of practice he caught a touchdown pass from Moore. … Tannehill dealt with some blitz pressure being thrown at him by defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, with Tyrone Culver sacking him off safety blitz and running back Steve Slaton doing a nice job picking up Anderson Russell coming from the other side. … Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long picked the stretching and warm-up music that likely set the tone, going with “Renegade” by Styx. Long was mouthing the words at the beginning.
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