PHILADELPHIA — If Kenny Stills hadn’t agreed to a long-term deal with the Miami Dolphins the day before he became a free agent in March, he may have been wearing a Philadelphia Eagles uniform and facing his old teammates on the practice fields at the NovaCare Complex this week.
Had he thought about that?
“Doesn’t really matter now,” Stills said with a smile. “It worked out the way I wanted it to.”
The Eagles were definitely interested in Stills’ talents and anyone watching the Dolphins-Eagles joint practices on Monday and Tuesday could see why.
Stills had two excellent days, mostly on the receiving end of new quarterback Jay Cutler.
The ball exploded out of Cutler’s hand this week and Stills became a more frequent target.
“We’re getting better every day, so we’ve just got to continue to work before practice, in the meeting rooms, after practice, and get on the same page,” Stills said. “He’s a veteran guy and we’ve just got to go out there and make plays for him.”
On Monday, Cutler hit Stills in the back of the end zone for a red zone touchdown.
Later, Cutler fired a dart to Stills on a deep out route that carries Stills to the left sideline.
“I think (it’s) just more being prepared for the ball,” Stills said. “He’ll throw it to anybody at any point in time, regardless of if you’re the first read, second read, so always just getting open and being ready to make a play for him.”
Since Cutler’s arrival, DeVante Parker had quickly emerged as a favorite target. Parker is hard to miss, all legs and arms and speed and leaping ability.
But Stills was a vital part of Miami’s success in 2016.
Only Chris Hogan (Patriots) and DeSean Jackson (Redskins) averaged more than Stills’ 17.3 yards per catch.
Stills was on the receiving end of a team-leading nine touchdowns, often deep bombs from Ryan Tannehill.
In an 11-on-11 drill late in Tuesday’s practice, Cutler unleashed a deep ball to Stills, who got behind the Eagles defense and caught the ball in stride for a long touchdown.
It was reminiscent of a few Tannehill-Stills connections in 2016.
“Everybody understands that we were a little bit behind,” Miami coach Adam Gase said. “I don’t know how many days it has been for Jay now. He’s just trying to figure everybody out, body language, what have we changed since we’ve been apart in Chicago. Our guys have really done a great job of going to him and talking to him.”
Gase said that the off-field conversations occurring between Cutler and his receivers are paying dividends.
“They are talking everything out,” Gase said. “Those guys have taken it upon themselves. They’re not waiting for me to say something, they’re not waiting for (Offensive Coordinator) Clyde (Christensen), they’re not waiting for any of the other coaches. They’re taking it on their own and they’re trying to make sure everything’s tied up pretty tight before we hit this next game.”
Stills said Cutler has been communicative.
“Any time something happens, good or bad, he’ll come and talk to us,” Stills said. “Just having that open line of communication for us, that’s the biggest thing. That’s how we get on the same page and that’s how we pick up the slack that we missed out on from (not having him here during) OTAs and the beginning of training camp.”
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