(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2017.)
WR Leonte Carroo
Height, weight: 6-1, 217
Experience: Entering second season, both with Dolphins
Acquired: Third-round pick in 2016
Contract: Made $625,097 in 2016; due to make $735,097 in 2017
Pro Football Focus rank: Unranked
Stats: 14 games played, two starts, three receptions, 29 yards, 1 TD
Notable moments: Caught 15-yard touchdown pass against 49ers.
Straight talk: Few if any Dolphins can claim to have a year as strange as the past one for Carroo.
The Dolphins had him rated as the No. 2 receiver at last year’s draft, so when he was available in the third round, they snagged him by trading up, parting with three picks including a third-rounder. And if you go by the computer — Rotoworld graded him as the third-best rookie receiving prospect — giving up so many picks possibly made sense.
It made more sense when the season started. With DeVante Parker injured, Carroo started at Seattle, had two catches for 14 yards, and earned a compliment during handshakes from All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.
“He came up to me after the game and said, ‘You’re a hell of a player,’ ” Carroo said.
This is where the story takes a turn.
His totals for the remaining 16 games include more days of being inactive (three) than receptions (one). Carroo, in fact, did not suit up for any of the final three games even though fellow rookie Rashawn Scott — picked up off the street — did.
“I’m not going to say he performed poorly, but we needed him to be a little bit better,” said Darren Rizzi, the Dolphins’ assistant head coach and special teams coordinator.
Carroo called it “a humbling experience” and admitted there were lessons learned regarding professionalism. There was a game against the Jets in which Kenny Stills was injured. Carroo was called upon for 33 snaps but was held without a catch.
“I can honestly say I wasn’t as prepared,” Carroo said in December. “You just kind of get into a flow of the season that you just expect that you’re pretty much not going to play. That game helped me realize that I’m actually one injury away from being out there. So I started to prepare a lot better.”
Coach Adam Gase said part of the issue was that because of Carroo’s size, he saw work at multiple receiving positions and “was struggling a little bit with the volume” of information tossed his way. Gase said Carroo seemed more comfortable late in the season. Still, that wasn’t enough to get him on the field, especially once Parker regained his health.
Prospects for 2017
In this instant-gratification world, it’s tempting to jump to conclusions, but don’t forget Carroo had 29 touchdowns over three seasons at Rutgers and has a solid, 6-1 frame that can serve him well on this level.
Don’t forget that plenty of receivers require a season or two before producing.
By his own admission, some problems were self-inflicted. At one point, Carroo planned to join Jarvis Landry for some summer workouts, but their schedules did not mesh. Carroo could benefit greatly by making certain such an arrangement takes place this summer.
But the biggest reason to expect more out of Carroo this season might be the approach Gase will take. Gase said he made a mistake by having Carroo learn so many receiving positions his rookie year in case he had to fill in either inside or outside. Letting Carroo focus on just outside responsibilities in Year 2 might produced expected results.
Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen predicted “a big jump” in the second-year players following a year of adjustment.
“That first year is hard on everybody, but especially a rookie,” Christensen said.
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