DAVIE — Jakeem Grant is 12th in the NFL in punt return average and would be sixth in the NFL in kickoff return average if he had enough returns to qualify.
But the Miami Dolphins rookie receiver hears the skeptics. He’s fumbled four times, lost once, and appeared shaky on a few other chances.
“We’ve proven guys wrong over and over and over again,” Grant said. “And that’s what I’m all about, proving guys wrong.”
Grant was a sixth-round pick out of Texas Tech and created immediate excitment in training camp and the preseason with his sudden explosiveness.
Grant returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown against Tennessee. And he had a 57-yard punt return touchdown against the Jets called back due to penalty.
But Grant knows some aren’t confident in his ball security.
“I would describe my first year as a good learning experience,” Grant said. “I’ve had some ups and some downs. And as a rookie you’re going to have that. Even as a vet you’re not going to have those. And things I’ve made mistakes on, as soon as I get into the offseason I’m looking to correct those mistakes. Because you know I’m still a rookie, I’m still trying to get in the groove of things. I’m still trying to play without thinking.”
Time after time, coach Adam Gase has said he’s sticking with Grant.
“We need him to be consistent, consistent catching the football,” Gase said. “You know what I’m going to say: we’re going to put him back there again. The guy is too explosive. He’s a game-changing player. You never know. This might be a good week for him to have one.”
Special teams coach Darren Rizzi has brought up how some of the best returners in the NFL had blips in their first few seasons.
“There have been plenty of times where Devin Hester muffed a punt or fumbled and he still will go down as one of the greatest returners ever,” Grant said. “So I won’t let that get to me. I’m a rookie. It’s my first time every doing punt returns, ever in my life.”
Grant has one rush for one yard and no catches this season. But the most important thing Grant can do on Sunday is make an impact play on special teams.
“When a kickoff comes my way, I’m like, ‘Kick it to me,'” Grant said. “They’re always scared to kick it to me. I think, ‘This one right here is a touchdown. This one right here is a touchdown.’ And that’s what I think every single time. My motivation is, if you’re going to kick it to me, I’m going to make you pay.”