DAVIE — It’s not that the Dolphins are lowering their expectations of wide receiver DeVante Parker, but they don’t want to heap pressure on him by telling everyone how great he’ll be.
There’s been a change in tone among Miami’s coaches this year when it comes to Parker, who is coming off an underwhelming 2017 season and has yet to live up to being picked 14th overall three years ago. In an effort to keep him zeroed in on his daily work, they’re done telling everyone that the breakout season is right around the corner.
“The biggest thing for him is we were making these giant claims about him last year; Right now, it’s one day at a time,” wide receivers coach Ben Johnson said after today’s practice. “It’s a one-day-at-a-time mentality. We’re just trying to improve from yesterday. That’s all it is. We’ll keep stacking good days on top of each other and that’s how we’re going to keep improving.”
Parker had a career-best 57 catches last year, and his yardage (670) and touchdowns (one) declined from the previous season. He played 13 games, some of them while battling injuries.
Health has been a recurring issue for him, mostly with his ankle and back. He’s started 24 games in three seasons.
While his production hasn’t been what the Dolphins needed, the coaching staff is adamant that it’s due to a lack of effort. For the past two years, Adam Gase and others have repeatedly credited Parker for taking a serious approach to training and doing everything he can to be in good shape.
“I don’t know if there’s been many guys that’ve spent more time in the building than him, whether it’s getting his health right, in the training room, in the weight room (and) even watching film,” Johnson said. “To me, it’s been a different guy this offseason. He understands the urgency and how important this year is.”
Last spring, the coaches couldn’t say enough about how good Parker looked as he tore up the secondary in Organized Team Activities. He kept that going in training camp and the beginning of the season, and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen predicted he would have “a great, big year — a gigantic year for us.”
Parker started with 18 catches for 230 yards and a touchdown in the first three games, but trailed off after hurting his ankle against the Titans in early October. He had back-to-back games of one catch for five yards late in the year and was involved in a few interceptions that he could have prevented.
Johnson said he didn’t break down much 2017 film with Parker this offseason, preferring to bury that year, but one point of emphasis he pulled from the second half of his season is that Parker needs to learn how to still be a factor even when he’s not fully healthy.
“It’s going to be game in and game out, but he has to perform,” Johnson said. “We’re going to get nicked up. That’s just the nature of the beast. For him, it’s just the understanding, ‘Hey, I’ve got to live with that and I still got to perform regardless.’”
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