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2021 Miami Dolphins Training Camp Preview: Wide Receivers

Today, our training camp preview series takes us to the wide receivers' room. To reserve your spot at Miami Dolphins training camp, click the photo below.

Personnel Changes

Table inside Article
Additions Departures
Will Fuller (HOU) Isaiah Ford (UFA)
Jaylen Waddle (2021 NFL Draft)
Robert Foster (WSH)
Kai Locksley (2021 UDFA)

Coaching Staff

Josh Grizzard enters his second season as the Dolphins wide receivers coach. It's his fifth year with the Dolphins, serving previously as an offensive quality control coach and as an assistant wide receivers coach. Prior to his time in Miami, he had a three-year stint at Duke as a graduate assistant/quality control coach.

He played his college ball at Yale before making the jump to student assistant for one season.

Group at a Glance

The wide receiver position garnered arguably the biggest infusion of talent on the roster this offseason. Last year, the group excelled in the contested catch department (catching 47.5 percent of tight-window throws made by Tua Tagovailoa, best in the NFL). DeVante Parker had his second-best season as a pro in many categories (receptions, yards, touchdowns) and Preston Williams developed an early rapport with the rookie quarterback.

To complement the size and strength of the incumbents, Miami attacked the offseason in search of speed. Free agency brought in Will Fuller, who registered 53 receptions, 879 yards and eight touchdowns in 11 games played in the 2020 season, and Robert Foster. Both players clocked sub 4.4 forty-yard dashes at their respective combines, in addition to Albert Wilson, who opted out in 2020. The draft brought in one of college football's most-electrifying players with the sixth-overall pick in Jaylen Waddle (591 receiving yards and four touchdowns in five games in 2020).

The depth of the room promises to breed competition. Mack Hollins notched his first touchdown as a Dolphin last season, Jakeem Grant earned All-Pro honors as a return specialist, Lynn Bowden and Malcolm Perry proved difficult to corral after the catch and Allen Hurns joins Wilson in returning from an opt out. Kirk Merritt spent all but one game on the practice squad during his rookie season while Kai Locksley looks to make the switch from collegiate quarterback to professional wide receiver.

The Cast

Every Dolphins fan has memories of Albert Wilson carving up the Chicago Bears secondary for a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns totaling 118 yards in a thrilling 2018 overtime victory. The following week, on another long catch-and-run, he suffered a hip injury that prematurely ended the breakthrough campaign seven games in his Dolphins tenure.

Though the injury lingered into 2019, Wilson started looking like his old tackle-slipping self the final three games of that season with 17 receptions for 197 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Wilson broke seven tackles with 110 of the 197 yards coming after the catch. Come camp, Wilson will be 33 months removed from the injury.

Last year with the Texans, Fuller stepped into the No. 1 receiver role following the departure of DeAndre Hopkins, and he did not disappoint. Fuller led the NFL in yards per target (11.7) and set career-highs in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. His 13.3 aDOT (average depth of target) was 24th-highest among qualifying receivers. Still, he caught over 70 percent of his targets, a feat accomplished by only one other receiver with an aDOT of at least 13.0 yards (Cleveland's Rashard Higgins, 75.4 percent), per Pro Football Focus.

Fuller graded among the top of the wide receiver class in Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception data for 2020. Fuller posted better than league average success rates on all but one route (out routes) and defeated press coverage at a 74.2 percent clip, good for the top 80 percent in the NFL.

Bowden Jr.'s skills are best explained by his collegiate accomplishments. A wide receiver, Bowden switched to quarterback his final year at Kentucky after the Wildcats lost their first- and second-string passers to injury. He went on to set rushing records for SEC quarterbacks in the same season in which he started on the Biletnikoff Award watch list for the nation's top receiver.

Arriving in Miami just a week before the season opener of his rookie campaign, Bowden Jr. saw his playing time increase as the year went on. He was targeted twice through the first 12 weeks before seeing at least four targets in four of the last five games. During that final month, Bowden totaled 27 receptions, 212 yards and broke at least one tackle in every game (PFF).

After signing a contract extension ahead of the Week 10 game in 2019, Hurns finished the season with 19 receptions, 246 receiving yards and a touchdown – good for 8.79 yards per target and a career-high 68.1 catch percentage. Hurns spent exactly half of his time in the slot in 2019 per Pro Football Focus. In addition to his inside presence, Hurns can compete (at 6-foot-3) on the perimeter and in the red zone. Hurns opted out in 2020.

A versatile offensive weapon, Perry's rookie season took on a similar look to his college career playing multiple positions on offense and special teams. Perry caught nine passes on 13 targets for 92 yards and a touchdown. He also carried the ball three times for five yards and returned a punt for 12 yards.

Parker provides the Dolphins versatility at receiver, excelling at high-pointing the football for the explosive play, as well as moonlighting as a disruptive inside receiver. Capable of playing every receiver position, Parker's strong hands, top-shelf leaping ability and exceptional body control have made him the standard at catching contested balls the last two seasons. His 43 contested catches between 2019-2020 are best in the NFL, which is a valuable asset for a young quarterback.

The 2019 season showed Parker at his peak – he recorded 1,202 receiving yards despite ranking in the bottom five in the NFL of catchable targets (per Sports Info Solutions). He also ranked in the top 12 that season in aDOT at 14.4 average depth of target.

Foster provides another blend of size and speed on the Dolphins' wide receiver depth chart, with his 6-2 frame and 4.41 second 40-yard dash time. He boasts a 20.1 career average yards per reception. His most-productive season was the 2018 campaign, his rookie year as a member of the Bills. Foster caught 27 passes for 541 yards, three touchdowns and 20 first downs at 12.3 yards per target.

Waddle, the sixth-overall pick in the 2021 draft, was the most-explosive player in college football by GPS tracking data last season. He caught 21-of-26 deep targets (passes thrown 20-plus yards) during his time at Alabama. He averaged 22.3 yards per reception and 19.2 yards per target his final year at Tuscaloosa.

With an average of 123.8 yards per game from the slot, Waddle led college football in that category in 2020. He finished sixth in college football with an average of 10.1 yards after the catch.

Waddle also provided explosive play-making ability on special times, averaging 19.3 yards per punt return with a pair of touchdowns on 38 return chances.

In his two NFL seasons, Preston Williams has played in 16 games, logging 50 receptions for 716 and seven touchdowns. While both seasons were shortened due to injury, Williams has shown the threat he can be as a receiver..

Williams burst onto the scene with a sensational rookie training camp, rolled that success into his first preseason and continued to produce when the games began to count. He offers size, athleticism, and an innate ability to sink his hips at the top of the route, which allows him to transition smoothly into his breaks. Williams is a threat in the vertical passing game, evidenced by his career 14.8 average depth of target and 14.3 yards per reception.

Grant's speed and explosive nature make for some of the more engaging plays on the NFL landscape as both a receiver and returner. He broke franchise records for the longest punt return (88 yards) and most punt return touchdowns in a Dolphins career (3) when he scored from his own 12-yard-line in the 28-17 win over the Rams. Grant also has two kickoff return touchdowns, giving him the franchise record for special teams scores with five.

Grant notched a team-high 10.3 yards per target in 2020. Throughout his career, he has averaged 6.4 yards after the catch on 89 career receptions.

Called up from the practice squad for one game in 2020, Merritt's debut saw him play one snap on offense and seven on special teams. In college, Merritt was billed as one of the most athletic receivers in his 2015 recruiting class. After one year at the University of Oregon, Merritt transferred to Arkansas State where he scored 19 touchdowns and posted 1,872 receiving yards in two seasons.

Hollins is carving out a nice career in the NFL as a key special teams contributor, but he's not exclusive to that phase. After some injuries to his teammates in 2020, Hollins was called upon on offense and proceeded to catch 16 of 25 targets for 176 yards and a touchdown.

A core special-teamer, Hollins tallied 248 snaps spread across all of special teams coordinator Danny Crossman's units. Just as contributions in the third phase can be overlooked, perhaps so too was Hollins' exploits in the running game. His block in Las Vegas sprung running back Myles Gaskin for a 58-yard touchdown, and Hollins' largest offensive snap total of the year (69 snaps in Week 15 vs. New England) coincided with Miami's best rushing total of the season (250 yards).

A dual-threat quarterback at UTEP, Locksley showcased his athleticism with 237 career rushing attempts and 350 passes. He totaled 20 touchdowns over two seasons (11 coming on the ground) with 2,266 passing yards and 875 more as a runner. Now, he looks to use his versatility as he makes the transition to wide receiver.

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