OXNARD, Calif. — Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker has several goals for this season, none bigger than this: exceed 1,000 receiving yards.
“I have never had 1,000 yards,” Parker said after Thursday’s practice. “So that would be my goal. Except in high school. So yeah, that would be one of my goals.”
How achievable is it?
“I think it’s very achievable, with the quarterback (Jay Cutler) we have,” Parker said. “He slings it. He throws it to anyone. He likes to identity people down the field. If you have a 1-on-1 matchup he’s going to throw it to you.”
Parker has emerged as a top target, likely the top target, for Cutler in the preseason.
The reasons? 1) Parker is a physical freak 2) Parker is healthy.
“The biggest thing is I would say last year I waited too long to start back, like working out again,” Parker said. “This year I had it in my mind I was going to go home for just a couple of weeks then come back and start right back at it again, before training camp.”
Parker did top 100 yards twice last season, once on Nov. 13 at the San Diego Chargers.
“I just remember they played a lot of man,” Parker said. “And we just took advantage of that. We just tried to find ways to beat them.”
Parker, told that he is one of the fastest risers in 2017 fantasy football drafts, and that The Daily Dolphin has recommended him to fantasy draft players, said: “I didn’t tell you to tell them that. You can tell them, though.”
OXNARD, Calif. — Miami Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi cited rookies Maurice Smith, Torry McTyer and Chase Allen as three rookies who are ready to contribute effectively.
All three players were undrafted and all figure to play on Sunday against the Chargers.
“‘Mo’ (Maurice) Smith definitely jumped out,” Rizzi said. “He flashed in every one of our games, every one of the preseason games. He played in all of them on special teams and defense, and he definitely jumped out at us as a guy that it didn’t seem too big for him.”
Smith is a safety who can also play cornerback.
McTyer is a cornerback who can also play safety.
Allen is an option at middle linebacker behind Mike Hull, if Rey Maualuga is not available.
“A couple of guys that I thought really got better as we went along were Chase Allen and Torry McTyer,” Rizzi said. “I thought those guys really progressed nicely. (They had) really a nice rookie progression as camp moved forward and they were peaking at the end of preseason.”
Third-year running back Senorise Perry also figures to be a key special teams contributor, according to Rizzi. Perry made the team over Storm Johnson and it seems special teams were a factor.
“Senorise Perry really played well on special teams, in many different facets,” Rizzi said. “I think many people will probably point at (the fact that) he fumbled a kick return and all that, but he really played well in all of the other facets. I was really, really impressed with him. So those guys, all of those guys, were impressive throughout for a lot of different reasons.”
It’s never easy for a special teams coach to know how youngsters will respond in the opener.
“It’s a big learning curve because a lot of these guys haven’t done it at all,” Rizzi said. “It’ll be the first time – if some of these guys are active on Sunday – it’ll be the first time ever doing it in live action. Listen, the preseason, there’s a lot of great things about the preseason, but it really for me as a special teams coach, is a lot different than offense or defense, because we’re really evaluating personnel… Some of those guys have played a little bit (of special teams), but a lot of them have not, so that’s what we’re really trying to drum home in their minds is that this regular season is going to be amped up a notch. It’s going to be a little bit different for them; but all of those guys, in one way or another, have really shown it.”
OXNARD, Calif. — When Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi ended up on the first injury report of the 2017 season, there was understandable concern.
Ajayi, who rushed for 1,272 yards last season, was listed with a knee injury.
Coach Adam Gase didn’t seem too concerned on Thursday.
“I don’t really see him as being hurt,” Gase said before practice. “He just is a little sore. I mean that’s just kind of, it’s been like that for a while.”
Ajayi’s knees were a concern when he was drafted out of Boise State. That has been cited as one of the reasons a player with Ajayi’s obvious talents slipped to the fifth round in 2015.
Ajayi had 11 rushes for 51 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason.
One year ago, Ajayi didn’t even make the trip to Seattle for the first game of the Dolphins season. Ajayi had not been scheduled to play and he did not react well to the news.
Much has changed.
“I think anytime you do anything, you learn so much through experience,” Gase said. “In this league, one week feels like a month or two. I mean you learn a lot in a short period of time. And you kind of have to because the careers area so short. You don’t have a lot of time to say hey I’ll get it in three or four years. When you play and you learn that is the key.”
“Toward the end of the season, we know we’ll probably have to back it off a little bit in practice,” Pouncey said.
Keeping Pouncey at his best throughout this season was going to be a challenge, even without the unexpected first-week bye.
The plan has been for Pouncey to participate in a very limited fashion, no more than every other day, in Dolphins practices, as he recovers from a hip injury.
And it turns out the extra week of rest, and a preseason plan of lots of extra rest, is a benefit to Pouncey.
“It’s impacted it in a big way,” Pouncey said. “Because I feel good. And that’s the biggest thing we want to do, is me feel good to start the season. The schedule that we have, the plan that we have, has been awesome so far. And we’ll continue that throughout the season and see how it goes. If I keep feeling like this, then we’ll do more and more throughout the week.”
Gase’s goal has been simply to get Pouncey through “16-plus” games, so an increase in practice repetitions for the veteran is always going to be subject to intense negotiation. Pouncey is Miami’s best offensive lineman, and the key to Jay Ajayi’s rushing success last season.
When Ajayi ran for 204 yards against the Steelers and 214 yards against the Bills in consecutive weeks last October, who was at center?
That’s right — Mike Pouncey.
Due to Hurricane Irma, Pouncey visited family in Pittsburgh last week, including brother Maurkice, center for the Steelers. Because Miami would have eight days between practices, Pouncey decided he needed some physical activity, so he worked out twice.
Miami quarterback Jay Cutler mentioned Wednesday that overall, the offense was rusty, which is to be expected after the layoff.
It turns out Pouncey feels even more ready for the season after some more down time. The postponement of the Tampa Bay opener contained a silver lining.
“It wasn’t frustrating at all for me,” Pouncey said. “Because another week for me was pretty good.”
Player after player mentioned how Gase has really tried to shift all focus to football.
“It’s one week at a time,” Pouncey said of Gase’s message. “Just come out of this week 1-0. That’s the only message. We don’t want any distractions. It’s all about football. It’s football season. And there is nothing that should distract you during football season.”
Pouncey’s last game was on the road, against the Chargers, last Nov. 13.
It was so long ago, the Chargers moved to Los Angeles and will play Sunday’s game in Carson, Calif.
“I wasn’t feeling any pain that game,” Pouncey recalled. “It was that next Wednesday in practice. But during the game I felt great. I had a good game that day and it just sucked that I had to go down in practice the way I did. But I’m happy to be back. I’m excited. I can’t wait. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out there playing football. But I’m ready for it on Sunday.”
OXNARD, Calif. — It appears Reshad Jones made five tackles in four preseason games, but of course, the Miami Dolphins safety hasn’t made a tackle that matters in 11 months, an October contest against Pittsburgh.
Since then, Jones has agreed to a 5-year, $60 million contract extension.
Since then, Jones has had rotator cuff surgery to repair a tear in his left shoulder.
It seems to me that Jones’ return to Miami’s defense has been an under-the-radar storyline this entire preseason.
It seems to me that it was too easy to forget something I had written last season — that through six games, Jones was not just a very good player, but Miami’s best player.
“Nothing should be said about my return,” Jones told me after practice on Wednesday. “There are great players on this team. We’ve got a great staff. We’ve just got to win some football games. I just want to continue to come out and do what I’ve been doing. I’m just here to do what I’ve been doing for this football team for eight years. Be consistent. Make plays.”
There is so much attention and focus paid to how much Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake are paid and if Jordan Phillips will ever reach his potential and if the good Byron Maxwell will please stand up, that Jones is somehow, too often, still, overshadowed.
Jones is a player who can change the course of any game with one play, one of the rare Dolphins defenders who is capable of making a thrilling, dynamic, athletic, sometimes unplanned, instinctual, ball-hawking, behind the line of scrimmage, turnover-inducing momentum-changer.
And this should not be forgotten, for in the preseason, Miami’s defense still seemed capable of bending, if not always breaking, under new first-year defensive coordinator Matt Burke.
For the record, will the transition from Vance Joseph to Burke bring with it any wrinkles, tweaks or novelties?
“Nah, not really man,” Jones said. “The same.”
If Jones can be the same Jones he has been throughout his career, he’s the type of impact player who could win the Dolphins a game or two on his own.
One thing Jones said on Wednesday, that sticks with me, however, is the idea that his shoulder surgery was not at all easy to rehabilitate from, and that he still hasn’t, to an extent, completed the entire course to perfect health.
“It’s a long process,” Jones said. “With the shoulder. I have to keep working it. It’s a long process with the shoulder. It’s one of the worst surgeries you can have, pretty much. So it’s an ongoing process. I’m still working every day to keep it strong, and keep it good, but you know, doc felt real good about it, it’s stable and everything like that. So I mean I haven’t really been thinking about it.”
Miami needs Jones to be a sure tackler.
Miami made the playoffs last season despite a woeful effort in the area of run defense.
There is the belief that Jones can make an impact in that area. After all, he is one of the Dolphins most capable of tackling an opposing running back for loss, something that did not happen frequently enough last season.
I mentioned to Jones, 29, that while I felt his contract extension was well deserved, some will wonder if he can live up the terms of the agreement. Jones is extremely confident, but he downplayed any notion of additional pressure.
“I don’t worry about that,” said Jones, whose contract will contain an average annual salary trailing only safeties Eric Berry and Tyrann Mathieu. “Only guys I have to worry about are the guys in my locker room and the staff. I have to play consistent. It’s not living up to anything. Like you said, it was well deserved. The team felt like it was the best thing for me and the team. All I’ve got to do is continue to go out and do what I’m doing.”
Last season, Dolphins coach Adam Gase said of Jones: “I wish all our guys played with as much effort and heart as that guy plays.”
Last season, Jones told me his life philosophy is simple: “Kill the man with the ball.”
Miami needs Jones to make a major impact this season. The Dolphins need Jones to show as much effort and heart as he ever has. Miami needs Jones to kill the man with the ball.
Jones’ return to the NFL’s regular season was delayed a week due to Hurricane Irma.
“We’ve got a good plan for these guys,” Jones said of the Los Angeles Chargers.
But do the Chargers have a good plan for Jones?
He’s one of the players on Miami’s defense that a quarterback, and an offensive coordinator, must account for.
Jones’ return to Miami’s defense surely hasn’t gone unnoticed by them.
“I’m excited,” Jones said about Sunday’s game. “I haven’t played in a game for a while. I’m pretty pumped, actually.”
OXNARD, Calif. — Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler said Wednesday’s practice was not sharp for the offense.
“I think most of the guys got here either Sunday or Monday and that was kind of the day to start kind of prepping that our bye week is over and we’ve got to get football going,” Cutler said. “I mean we were a little bit rusty today since we haven’t practiced. We got a little bit going yesterday, but I’m sure that as the week goes on, we’ll get back into it.”
Cutler hasn’t played since an Aug. 24 preseason game, nearly three weeks ago.
After missing organized team activities and the early portion of training camp, and now having his Dolphins’ debut delayed has been the strangest start to a season Cutler has ever experienced.
“Oh, it’s not even close,” Cutler said. “I mean, to come into camp halfway through training camp and then have to evacuate and come here and miss … having the first game cancelled. It’s been a wild ride.”
If there is one benefit to the delay, having more than a week together in California should help Cutler continue to bond with teammates.
“I mean it’s like training camp essentially,” Cutler said. “That’s kind of what our mindset is. Everyone is together. We meet together. We eat together. There’s nowhere for anyone really to go. So it’s a good experience for us.”
Cutler, who seems candid and direct, admitted it might take some time for Miami’s offense to crank up.
“We might not,” Cutler said. “I mean we don’t know how it’s going to go. We’re going to practice as hard as we can. We’re going to prepare as much as we can; but like any game, like any NFL season, there’s going to be some ups and downs out there and these guys are … It’s a resilient group, so we’ll just battle through them.”
OXNARD, Calif. — Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills is frustrated more NFL players are not supporting quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Stills took to Twitter this week to ask athletes why, and the lack of response only added to his exasperation.
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised,” Stills said Wednesday, after Dolphins’ practice. “Just, I feel like the league is majority African American and you would think more people would come to have one of our guys’ back. We talk about the NFL being a brotherhood and they give us this presentation every year about the NFL being a brotherhood and when something wrong is going on to one of your brothers I feel like we should be there to have his back and to speak up for him.”
Kaepernick, who like Stills, kneeled during the national anthem before games last season, has not found work this season.
Here are some of Stills’ Tweets from Tuesday:
“Why aren’t more players speaking up or protesting? Do you not believe there’s a problem? Do you not believe you can create change?”
“Are you worried about sponsors or your contract? Do you not care?”
“Why hasn’t the league ever released a statement condemning the unarmed shootings of our people? The league could’ve easily written a positive narrative about Kap and what he started. They chose to stay neutral. Why is that?”
“How can we expect the league to care about something we’re not showing we care about?”
Stills said he wants to learn more about why players aren’t speaking out.
“That’s a question that I asked and I got a lot of feedback from people,” Stills said. “I haven’t really had much time to look at it, but it’s something I will look into. And I mean I’m curious as to why. I was really hoping to reach more players. I don’t think many players wrote me back or responded. So that was really what that was for. Just hollering at the players. Seeing where their minds were at.”
Stills said he has engaged Seahawks’ defensive lineman Michael Bennett about social issues.
“We’ve talked through text message,” Stills said. “We’re all just trying to be here for each other. I feel like the narrative is kind of going to the wrong way sometimes. Just to have each others’ back and support each other and you know I’m really happy to see the things that he’s doing. I was kind of at a loss for words hearing what happened to him after the Mayweather fight. So just continuing to reach out to guys and letting them know we have their back. And the NFL is actually a brotherhood like we talked about.”
Stills has thought about if he should kneel again during national anthems, as he did last season.
“It’s definitely something that I’ve thought about but I continue to think that the protest has been really divisive,” Stills said. “And I’m trying to do everything I can do to get everyone on the same page. It’s something I’ve definitely thought about. I really want to bring people together. I’m open to having conversations with people and trying to get them on the same page.
Should players use their voices more?
Obviously Stills feels the answer is yes.
“I haven’t been too shy about saying anything,” So I’ll continue to speak my mind.
OXNARD, Calif. — There are few positives to the Miami Dolphins having their bye on the first week of the NFL season, but coach Adam Gase may have found one.
Gase was able to watch a handful of future opponents last Thursday, Sunday and Monday.
“It’s interesting,” Gase said on Tuesday, prior to a Dolphins practice. “Usually on the bye week you watch a little bit, but you almost avoid it a little bit. You’d rather not watch it sometimes. We hadn’t played a game yet. You’re watching guys that you worked with before, friends of yours to see how their season’s gonna start off. That was interesting to kind of be a spectator of that this week.”
On Thursday, Gase was able to take in the Patriots’ 42-27 loss to the Chiefs.
Miami will face the Patriots on Nov. 26 and Dec. 11.
On Sunday, Gase was able to watch the Bills beat the Jets (Miami will face those teams twice apiece).
Gase was also able to see the Ravens beat Bengals and the Panthers top the 49ers.
Perhaps most helpful, the Dolphins were able to watch three future opponents on Monday night.
The Vikings topped the Saints and the Broncos beat the Chargers.
Of course, the Los Angeles Chargers are now facing the Dolphins on a short week. And Miami will have a seeming advantage in being able to watch some actual film, while they haven’t played.
“Seeing those guys really in action and watching their defense and seeing them fly around in a different scheme, it’s really just a carryover of what we saw in preseason,” Gase said of the Chargers’ defense. “They’re always gonna have something different each week. Watching their offense, you see how explosive they can be. Myself being in this division before, this doesn’t look far off from what I’ve seen in the past. Between (Joey) Bosa and (Melvin) Ingram, they’ve really got it going right now.”
OXNARD, Calif. — Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross pledged $1 million to immediate and long-term rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
“The devastation throughout Florida was heartbreaking, but I was inspired by the resilience and spirit of our state to help rebuild,” Ross said in a statement. “Our most heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to those impacted by Hurricane Irma and we are committed to helping in long term recovery efforts.”
The organization is also helping to provide volunteers through the Miami Dolphins Special Teams powered by AARP Foundation. The volunteers are to be deployed in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
In addition, the Dolphins have partnered with AARP Foundation on a dollar for dollar matching campaign, with 100 percent of the money raised going directly into the community. Created to support the victims of the hurricane, especially those who are low-income and age 50-plus, these donations collected through the disaster relief fund will impact those in need.
Lastly, the team will assess long-term damage and collaborate with local and regional community partners involved with critical relief and rebuilding efforts in Monroe and Collier counties along with the Florida Keys.