Top News: Plenty Of Options In Passing Game

Wide receivers coach Karl Dorrell is happy with the talent and the depth of his position group, and he believes who plays a leading role could vary from game to game.

Put simply, he does not believe in the notion of the team having somebody who stands as its clear No. 1 receiver.

“Right now, I won’t say there is anybody that is slated that way,” Dorrell said Tuesday when all Dolphins assistant coaches spoke to the media. “Our offense is, if you have seen this system and even the Patriots, they have a number of different guys that play a number of different roles and don’t necessarily have kind of that guy. I think we are still built the same way.

“It is an exciting group that will make challenges for defenses to cover. We are going to try to make sure we do a great job of putting guys in numerous places to make them effective and whoever is the hot guy that particular game may have eight catches. Whoever is not, may not, but you never know how that is going to shake out depending on the game plan and how teams try to defend us.”

The Dolphins currently are carrying five wide receivers on their 53-man roster — veterans DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant and Allen Hurns, along with rookie Preston Williams.

The team had tough decisions to make at this position because of the presence in camp of veteran Brice Butler and second-year player Isaiah Ford, who eventually was signed to the practice squad. Hurns was able to earn a roster spot despite not joining the team until July 26, the second day of training camp.

“He did everything right,” Dorrell said of the six-year veteran from the University of Miami. “Allen doesn’t say much, doesn’t talk much, you don’t see him trying to draw any type of attention to himself, but if you watch his play and his snaps in games, he was in the right spot and he was open and he was doing the right thing in the run game and he was playing like a great veteran should play. He is such a professional. I think he has a quiet confidence about what he brings to our group and he is just one of those guys that had to learn our system quickly because we picked up him late and he had to do that and he was able to do that. He was a good pick up and surprise for us. We are excited to have him.”

Running Back Riches

The Dolphins fortified their running backs group in the offseason when they drafted three players at the position, adding another as a rookie free agent and also signed a couple of free agents.

They liked enough of their additions that they ended up keeping six running backs on the 53-man roster. Even without counting fullback Chandler Cox, five running backs is a very high number at that position.

But in the end the Dolphins simply felt the five running backs — Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage, Mark Walton, Myles Gaskin and Patrick Laird — deserved to be on the 53-man roster.

“I felt like this group of guys did a great job,” running backs coach Eric Studesville said. “I thought Kalen played well and Drake played well before his foot (injury) in Tampa. Those two guys just kind of picked up where they left off last year; Mark Walton came in did a nice job and I thought Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskin did a great job too. … You just see that you got smart guys who are trying to do everything the right way, which is what we’re talking about here. You’ve got tough, smart guys that are buying into what we’re trying to do, so keeping those people in your system is what you want.”

Running Ryan

With the Dolphins facing the Baltimore Ravens in their opener Sunday, it’s not surprising the topic of dual-threat quarterbacks was brought up to defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.

Second-year Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson certainly is one of those guys who possesses that combination of passing and running ability.

“Who isn’t a dual-threat quarterback?” Graham said jokingly. “I mean, these guys, they present challenges because these guys are mobile and they can get out of bad plays or broken down plays. They can get out of that. That is one challenge. So you cover them, and here you go. You’ve got the rush, somebody misses a sack and, oh no, now it turns into a scramble play. That is tough. Then in terms of the zone read, the quarterback stuff, that is a whole different challenge right there, the different options on that. It presents a challenge, but it makes you work at it. It is still football at the end of the day, but it is definitely a challenge.”

Graham then was asked whether Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was a dual threat, even though he’s not necessarily known as a scrambling quarterback.

“Anyone that can move is a dual threat to me,” Graham said.

Talking tight ends

Tight ends coach George Godsey said he was pleased with the progress of his two second-year players, Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe, and praised the veteran of the group for setting the right kind of example.

Nick O’Leary, who turned 27 on Saturday, is the old man among the tight ends as he prepares to enter his fourth NFL season.

“He’s versatile,” Godsey said. “He’s flexible. He’s able to help in the run game, help in the passing game. He has good knowledge — a big realm of experience, different teams — he knows the personnel and then he’s a tough football player. We like those guys. He’s good. He comes out to work. He’s the first guy out there on the practice field, first guy in the building. He sets the mode for the room, honestly.”

As for Gesicki and Smythe, Godsey said both players are headed in the right direction.

“He’s had a good preseason, both the run game and pass game,” Godsey said about Gesicki. “His conditioning is improving throughout the course of not only spring, but the fall. He’s got an upward trend right now. He’s caught some passes in the preseason, made some big plays. Of course, now is when it counts.”

Happy returns?

Not that it should have come as a surprise, but special teams coordinator Danny Crossman indicated that the plan was for Jakeem Grant to again handle the punt and kickoff return duties.

Despite being limited to 10 games last season because of a foot injury, Grant was among one of two players around the NFL with both a punt and a kickoff return for a touchdown. At the time of his injury, he was leading the league in kickoff return yards with 535.

“We think he’s a dynamic player, and we look forward to big things from him going forward,” Crossman said. “We talk about guys with elite quickness, elite speed and a history of scoring touchdowns. That’s what you’re looking for, and that’s what he brings."

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