2020 Training Camp Preview: Wide Receivers

The return of football is always a welcome sight, perhaps now more than ever before. An arduous offseason is in the books and everyone's favorite time of year is on the precipice. August in Miami means heat, humidity, hitting, and hard decisions made in order to trim the roster down to 53 in time for Week 1.

In this training camp preview, we're going position-by-position giving you a glimpse into every member of the Miami Dolphins roster. We'll cover all the angles including who the players are on the field and off of it.

On today's docket, the wide receivers, in order of jersey number.

DeVante Parker – 5 accrued seasons (6th in Miami)
Jersey: 11
College: Louisville
Opening Day Age: 27

The 2019 season served as DeVante Parker's coming out party. High-pointing contested catches, gaining yardage in chunks and finding the end zone with regularity, Parker earned a four-year contract extension prior to the conclusion of the season. Parker's career-year saw the former first-round pick finish fifth in the NFL in receiving yards (1,202), tied for eighth in yards per reception and tied for fourth in receiving touchdowns (9).

Parker was really difficult to defend at various points throughout the season, particularly in a victory over the eventual NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles. Parker caught seven passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns with a handful of highlight-reel, show-stopping grabs.

Those 60 minutes of unstoppable play showed Parker at his best. His ability to adjust to the ball in-flight while using his big frame and leaping ability to shield defensive backs from the football have generated big plays throughout his career.

With every element of his game working, including some nifty route-running to create separation from the game's best, Parker produced eye-popping production against a pair of All-Pro corners. In the latter contests against division rivals Buffalo and New England, Parker combined for 272 yards on 15 receptions.

Parker's consistent play-making earned the trust of first-year Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

"For us and for me as a quarterback, I'm always going to rely on my playmakers, and DeVante's been that guy all year long," Fitzpatrick said after the Week 17 win in New England. "There were a couple that maybe I didn't get in there, make the throw or [Stephon Gilmore] did a good job with. But I wasn't going to shy away from a matchup – not because I don't respect the other guy but because I have that much confidence in our guy. DeVante really stepped up big today."

Albert Wilson – 6 accrued seasons (3rd in MIA)
Jersey: 15
College: Georgia State
Opening Day Age: 28

When the Port St. Lucie native has been healthy, few receivers have been more productive than Albert Wilson. With tree trunks for legs, and a 4.43 40-time on his resume, Wilson is one of the game's most difficult tackles after the catch.

Through seven games in 2018, Wilson led all qualifying receivers in Pro Football Focus' yards per route ran metric, broken tackles and yards after initial contact. After averaging 3.9 targets per game through the first 13 contests in 2019, Wilson caught 17 of 23 targets over the final three games for 197 yards.

Last season, 332 of Wilson's 439 offensive snaps came from the slot. Wilson averaged 5.50 yards per route run from the slot in 2018 and caught 72.9 percent of his targets playing inside last season.

A jack-of-all trades, Wilson has lined up in the backfield on 28 occasions during his two-year tenure with Miami. Serving as a Wildcat trigger man, jet-sweep motion-man and taking handoffs out of the shotgun, he has carried the ball 13 times for 61 yards with the Dolphins.

Like Parker, Wilson earned the admiration of his quarterback last season through his will, attitude and work ethic.

"[Wilson's] attitude is unbelievable," Fitzpatrick said last December. "I don't know that I've played with many guys that – I mean he is truly happy when somebody else makes a play. He really is. He's had to deal with a lot of adversity and things out of his control in terms of some of the injuries and whatever else. He's worked really hard and is coming on as of late at the end of the season. Really, the run-after-the-catch ability and all of that, he's really shown it the last few games."

Gary Jennings – 1 accrued season (2nd in MIA)
Jersey: 16
College: West Virginia
Opening Day Age: 23

Jennings tore up the Big 12 in 2018 with 13 touchdowns, and was consequently drafted in the fourth round by the Seahawks. He was claimed off waivers after a mid-season release from Seattle, but caught a bad break as he was injured in his first game with Miami.

With nine total snaps in 2019, and just one on offense, Jennings enters something of a rookie campaign in his second year. Coming out of college, his postseason work in the Senior Bowl and at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine (4.42 40-yard dash) helped elevate the former Mountaineers' draft stock. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein had glowing praise for Jennings in his pre-draft report.

"Possession receiver with impressive combination of size, speed and contested catch toughness. Jennings was one of the fastest players at the Senior Bowl, according to Zebra Technology tracking, and his 4.42 combine time and huge numbers in explosive testing are sure to push him up draft boards."

Allen Hurns – 6 accrued seasons (2nd in MIA)
Jersey: 17
College: Miami
Opening Day Age: 28

Signing with Miami on the first day of training camp in 2019, Hurns developed into one of Ryan Fitzpatrick's most trusted targets. That reliability went up the chain to the Dolphins brass as Hurns was rewarded with a contract extension in November. Hurns, who caught 68.1 percent of his passes for 13 yards per reception, posted the second-highest yards per target mark of his career (8.9).

Only DeVante Parker played more snaps at wide receiver than Hurns last season. Hurns' versatility is perhaps his greatest asset. His workload was split almost evenly among slot (254 snaps) and perimeter (259 snaps). Of Hurns' 32 receptions, 23 of them occurred between the numbers and 259 of his 416 yards came from the slot, including both of his touchdown receptions.

Brian Flores praised Hurns for his toughness, one of the coach's key pillars of the program he seeks to build in Miami, after the receiver was dinged up in a December game at the Jets.

"He's dinged up," Flores said. "He played through some injuries last week. I thought he toughed through it and it was an impressive performance by him. This is a tough kid. He wants to play. If he can be out there, he'll be out there."

Preston Williams – 1 accrued seasons (2nd in MIA)
Jersey: 18
College: Colorado State
Opening Day Age: 23

Undrafted rookies face the greatest odds to make the roster out of training camp. It's even more difficult to make a significant impact in Year 1 for a player that was passed over through seven rounds in the draft. Early on, for Preston Williams, it was clear that the Dolphins found a gem on the 2019 UDFA market.

Williams made play-after-play in training camp, carried it into the exhibition season and into the 2019 season scoring the first touchdown of the year for Miami in the Baltimore game. Williams was lost for the season with an injury in a Week 9 win over the Jets. At the time of his exit, Williams led the Dolphins in receptions and receiving yardage.

Before Williams was making plays on Sunday, teammate Xavien Howard shared with media what it was like to go up against Williams in practice.

"That guy can be special," Howard said. "He's still learning. He's just a rookie. [There] is so much room for improvement with him but he's going to be a number one receiver one day."

Howard expanded on the comment mentioning his experience facing the league's best receivers gives him an understanding of what it takes to be a number one receiver. A variety of traits help contribute to Williams' ability create separation and make plays. At 6-foot-5, Williams' ability to get vertical, come off the stem of the route and get in-and-out of breaks generated a lot of buzz among Dolphins coaches.

"We were fortunate that after the draft and he wasn't picked, we said, 'wow, here is a great opportunity to work with a guy that has tremendous potential,'" said former Wide Receivers Coach Karl Dorrell. "Well, he lived up to that. He is a fun kid to coach – a very bubbly personality, very confident kid."

Williams played almost exclusively on the outside in his rookie season. Of his 404 offensive snaps, 386 came in a wide alignment, and he served as the team's primary punt returner for four games, averaging 11.5 yards per return.

Jakeem Grant – 4 accrued seasons (5th in MIA)
Jersey: 19
College: Texas Tech
Opening Day Age: 27

Once a player breaks the proverbial tape on their 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine, he will never again be asked to do that drill. In the 2016 run-up to the draft, Grant reportedly clocked a 4.10 time as taken on a hand-held timer at his Texas Tech Pro Day. That would be the fastest time in the history of the NFL had it been clocked at the combine. Either way, Grant can scoot.

The receiver who moonlights as a return man is more than just a straight-line burner, he's appointment viewing in the Dolphins one-on-one drills at practice. With plenty of shake, few players can create immediate separation off the line like Grant.

During his four-year career, Grant has scored eight touchdowns. And those house calls usually come from long distance. With touchdowns of 102, 101, 74, 71, 65 and 52 yards, Grant can provide an instant spark to the Dolphins offense and special teams.

The team showed its belief in Grant last summer with a contract extension. Flores spoke to the reasons he felt it important to get that deal done at his next media availability.

"You know I'm a big proponent of the kicking game, so his value as a kick returner, punt returner and his ability to make big plays in those areas, I think it's very important," Flores said. "As a receiver, I think there's – obviously, he can be dynamic. This guy's fast. This guy's elusive. He's strong for a little guy, and he works hard. Football's very important to him, and being part of this team is very important to him, so congratulations to him. I think it was well-deserved, and we're happy to have him."

The receiver who moonlights as a return man is more than just a straight-line burner, he's appointment viewing in the Dolphins one-on-one drills at practice. With plenty of shake, few players can create immediate separation off the line like Grant.

Matt Cole – Rookie
Jersey: 82
College: McKendree
Opening Day Age: 23

Every year, Sports Illustrated's Kalyn Kahler chooses a draft-eligible sleeper for her 'Prospect X' feature. This year, that distinction went to McKendree University's Matt Cole. Cole caught 43 passes for 939 yards and 12 touchdowns in his senior season. He also averaged 27.2 yards on kick returns, 26 yards on punt returns and scored from 100 and 74 yards on special teams.

Cole is listed at 5-foot-10, 197 pounds. He participated in Northwestern's Pro Day in March where he clocked a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash and 37.5 inches in the vertical jump.

Kirk Merritt – Rookie
Jersey: 83
College: Arkansas State
Opening Day Age: 23

The second of two undrafted free agent signings trying to earn a spot on the Week 1 roster, Kirk Merritt's college career started at Oregon and concluded in the Sun Belt at Arkansas State with a stop at East Mississippi Community College (featured on Netflix's Last Chance U) in the middle. Merritt scored 19 touchdowns in his two years with the Red Wolves and eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark (1,005) in 2018.

Nike hosts an annual football camp for the best high school players around the country. Merritt captured the SPARQ National Title in 2014 as the camp's best overall athlete. The events calculated in SPARQ score include 40-yard dash, shuttle run, power ball toss (a medicine ball throw) and vertical leap.

Merritt is 6-feet tall and weighs 208 pounds. He recorded 153 receptions and 1,811 receiving yards in his two seasons at Arkansas State.

Isaiah Ford – 2 accrued seasons (4th in MIA)
Jersey: 84
College: Virginia Tech
Opening Day Age: 24

The Dolphins receiver room is chock full of players that have battled adversity in their careers; perhaps none more than Isaiah Ford. A seventh-round pick in 2017, Ford's rookie season ended before it started with an injury. He played sparingly in 2018 and three-fourths of the way through 2019 before seizing an opportunity down the stretch.

Over the final four games, Ford caught 21 of 29 pass targets (72 percent completion) for 234 yards (8.1 yards per target) and 15 first downs. Four of those chain-moving plays came on the critical third down.

Ford is a grinder, a player who embodies the principles Coach Flores preaches. At the conclusion of 2019's training camp practices, Ford could be found getting extra work with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

"Again, I said this the last few weeks about Isaiah Ford, but he's a special guy – a guy that you can just rely on in any situation," Fitzpatrick said after the Week 14 game at the Jets.

Ford earned an opportunity to showcase that hard work when Miami lost a pair of starting receivers (Parker and Wilson) in-game to injuries. His knowledge of the Dolphins offense proved valuable for his ability to communicate to his teammates alignment and assignment.

"I thought Isaiah just – he stepped in, played every position from a receiver standpoint, got some guys lined up, made some big catches and made a nice run after catch there in the third quarter," Flores said after that Week 14 game.

Mack Hollins – 3 accrued seasons (2nd in MIA)
Jersey: 86
College: North Carolina
Opening Day Age: 26

Coach Flores makes no secret of the fact that he keeps a close eye on the transaction wire and scouting around the league. So, when Mack Hollins became available on waivers last season, the Dolphins pounced.

"I watch everybody," Flores said. "The guys we brought in, I watched them all and we feel good about them. Mack Hollins for instance, he's a tough, physical wide receiver, plays in the kicking game. He's had some production offensively and in the kicking game. We like him."

Hollins played a lot in both phases (offense and special teams) last season, both with the Eagles and Dolphins. He totaled 534 snaps with more than 20 reps on both coverage and return units for punt and kickoff. He even logged a snap on defense to help thwart a lateral play in the season finale win in New England.

Hollins has 26 receptions for 351 yards and one touchdown on his three-year NFL resume, all with the Eagles.

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