DAVIE — Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill always likes to organize some off-site throwing sessions in the offseason, and those workouts have been particularly important this year.
Not only does Tannehill need the repetitions after being out long-term with a knee injury, there are several key skill players who have emerged since he last played in December 2016. Tight end A.J. Derby is part of that group and benefitted tremendously from working with Tannehill before Organized Team Activities began.
Derby, who came in from Denver on a waiver claim late last year, stayed in Jupiter this offseason and drove down whenever Tannehill wanted.
“That’s what that time of year is for, to get that connection and get going,” Derby said after OTA practice today. “And hopefully by the season everyone will be clicking.”
That also gave Derby a head start on fighting for his spot on the depth chart. The Dolphins drafted a pass-catching tight end in Mike Gesicki in the second round this year and took Durham Smythe, a blocking specialist, in the fourth.
This is Derby’s third team since New England took him in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, and he’s played with a variety of quarterbacks over his time with New England, Miami and Denver.
As a former college quarterback, he prides himself on helping someone like Tannehill as much as possible. There were no monumental breakthroughs during their throwing sessions, but they hammered out some nuances that should help as they continue to work toward the start of training camp next month.
“He’s a very detail-oriented quarterback,” Derby said. “He wants you exactly where he wants you, and I was just trying to take exactly what he wanted and implement it in my game — just certain routes being in the right spot and looking at the right time.
“It’s just the timing and me being ready when he wants me to be ready, like on a little diagonal route, he wants me to look a little bit earlier, so that’s what we worked on. It’s just small details.”
Derby came to the Dolphins in late November last season and got on the field for the final two games. He was targeted nine times and caught two passes for 20 yards.
Prior to that, he appeared in 19 games for the Patriots and Broncos, totaling 35 receptions, 384 yards and two touchdowns.
A few months ago, coach Adam Gase said the team didn’t get a full opportunity to see what Derby could do, and the staff has much better grasp of his skillset now.
“I’m really interested to see what we can do with him,” Gase said in March. “We’ll kind of see what we can do developing him. I think he’s one of those guys that has a great feel in the slot and kind of that one-on-one spot versus a safety or linebacker. We’ll see how it plays out.”
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