Dolphins rookie TE Mike Gesicki rips through offseason practices

Gesicki (86) is the highest-drafted Dolphins tight end since 1974. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — The Dolphins’ top two picks in this year’s NFL Draft appear to be as good as everyone thought they were. That’s great when it comes to safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, but it’s essential with tight end Mike Gesicki.

Gesicki, the second-rounder from Penn State, is immediately on the spot to earn the starting job and add something to the offense that Miami’s been missing for years. Tight end has been a hugely problematic position for this team, which hasn’t had a good one since Charles Clay in 2014.

At 6-foot-6, 249 pounds with exceptional athleticism, Gesicki could be the trend-breaker. He’s got great speed for the position and presents a big target in the red zone with his leaping ability. The main question has been whether he can handle everything thrown at him mentally at this level and master the playbook, and he seems to be progressing well in that department.

“He’s had some really good days,” coach Adam Gase said at the end of Organized Team Activities. “(Wednesday) was a good example where we had a two-minute drill and we had some things in the red zone where he was able to take advantage of a couple matchups that he had.

[RELATED: Don’t miss our exclusive photos from Dolphins OTAs in Davie]

“He’s aggressive to the ball and he can make plays. He’s a big man that can run and has really good hands. It’s been fun to watch him kind of develop and trying to learn this offense. He puts a lot of time into it. He’s trying to be one of those guys that can play fast.”
Gase added that Gesicki’s “been good” with the mental side of the game as well. He’s been putting in extra study time with fellow rookie tight end Durham Smythe in their hotel room. The players take turn calling out plays for the other one to draw up on a whiteboard.

Gesicki isn’t much of a blocker and he’s working on that, but the Dolphins didn’t draft him to block. He caught 105 balls for 1,242 yards and 14 touchdowns in his final two college seasons, and that’s what they’re looking for out of him.

In the last three seasons, no Miami tight end has caught more than 41 passes and the position has been a glaring void in the offense. Julius Thomas’ season of that many catches, 388 yards and three touchdowns in 2017 was better than the Dolphins got out of Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims before him.

It’s not totally surprising given how little emphasis the organization has put on tight ends in the draft. Prior to this year, the Dolphins hadn’t selected one in the first three rounds since Michael Egnew in 2012. Gesicki is the third-highest picked tight end in franchise history.

[Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil moves past ‘horrible taste’ of last season, poised for comeback]

[Who wins a race between Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant and Kenny Stills?]

[Marjory Stoneman Douglas football team visits Dolphins practice]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

2018 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins need TE Mike Gesicki’s impact immediately

Tight end Mike Gesicki joins the Dolphins as a second-round pick. (Getty Images)

It won’t take much for new Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki to be considered a success. He might have extraordinary expectations, but the franchise’s standards at his position have been dangerously low for years.

As the tight ends have grown increasingly important in passing attacks league-wide, the Dolphins have been way behind. Their most recent failed experiments were Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron, and drafting Gesicki in the second round at No. 42 was a desperate attempt to finally find a long-term answer at the position.

Gesicki comes in from Penn State with basketball-style athleticism and a 6-foot-6, 249-pound frame. Over his junior and senior seasons, he combined for 105 receptions, 1,242 yards and 14 touchdowns.

He was first among tight ends at the NFL Combine in 40-yard dash with a time of 4.54 seconds, which was better than what some highly ranked wide receivers clocked. He also finished No. 1 in vertical leap (41.5 inches), broad jump, three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle.

That’s a lot to work with, and the Dolphins get the opportunity to start shaping him when he arrives with the rest of the draftees next week for rookie minicamp. They’ll also bring in at least a dozen undrafted rookies.

Their hope for Gesicki, whom they chose over Dallas Goedert, is that he can provide a red zone threat that’s been missing at tight end for years.

Before this continues, a brief history of Miami Dolphins tight ends:

— Anyone 26 or younger has never witnessed the splendor of seeing one selected to the Pro Bowl.

— The franchise record for touchdown catches at the position is seven by Keith Jackson in 1994 and Anthony Fasano in 2008. Seven.

— Of the four previous tight ends they’ve drafted since 2010, Dion Sims topped out with a 26-catch season in 2016, Thomas Duarte has appeared in one game, Michael Egnew caught seven passes in two years before dropping out of the league and Arthur Lynch never made it.

— They’ve never picked one in the first round.

Absorb all that and it makes sense that Thomas’ 41 catches, 388 yards and three touchdowns actually qualified as a decent year by a Dolphins tight end. It was better than what they’d gotten from anyone else at the position since letting Charles Clay walk in free agency in 2015.

Coming into this year, it would’ve been more of the same. Miami’s best hope prior to the draft was A.J. Derby, a 26-year-old they got off waivers from the Broncos last season. He’s shown some promise on the practice field, but the Dolphins were his third team in two seasons and he’s got 37 career catches.

Behind Derby, the team would’ve gone into the upcoming season with MarQueis Gray (27 career receptions), Gavin Escobar (30) and Duarte (none). To say that tight end was a draft need would be putting it gently.

The Dolphins answered by taking Gesicki at No. 42, the third-highest they’ve ever picked a tight end, and adding Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe in the fourth round. Gesicki is the receiver of the two, and Smythe is the blocker.

They’ve bypassed some serious tight ends in the draft lately, including Ole Miss’ Evan Engram and University of Miami’s David Njoku a year ago in favor of drafting defensive end Charles Harris at No. 22. Engram went one pick later and put up 64 catches, 722 yards and six touchdowns for the Giants, while Njoku had a reasonably solid rookie year in Cleveland with 32, 386 and four.

Another notable miss came in 2013, when the Chiefs landed a generational tight end in Travis Kelce at No. 63 overall—nine picks after Miami took cornerback Jamar Taylor.

Clay was the last great find, emerging as an above-average tight end after the Dolphins scooped him up in the sixth round in 2011. He’s never made a Pro Bowl, though he did give Miami 127 catches, 1,364 yards and 10 touchdowns over the 2013 and ’14 seasons. Those numbers aren’t overwhelming, but only Randy McMichael had a better two-year run.

Clay left for Buffalo on a five-year, $38 million contract in 2015, and the Dolphins didn’t deem him special enough exercise their option to match the deal. Over the ensuing two years, Thomas was the best replacement Miami could find.

Thomas, by the way, was a player the Dolphins acquired because the Jaguars were about to waive him. He would’ve been in the free agency bargain bin had Miami not traded a seventh-rounder to get him, and that’s the kind of shopping this team doesn’t want to do anymore.

Now the Dolphins have their own young, gifted tight end and the chance to mold him into exactly what they need. In one sense, there’s little pressure on Gesicki because the standards haven’t been very high, but there’s also a lot riding on him finally being Miami’s breakthrough at a position that’s been problematic for a long time.

[Miami Dolphins’ 2018 salary cap spending shows their priorities]

[Takeaways from the Yahoo! Sports scouting series on the Dolphins]

[Parkland-Douglas football team makes Miami Dolphins draft announcements]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

Rex Ryan sends out five ex-Dolphins as Bills captains

Former Miami Dolphin Richie Incognito is a Bills captain for today's game in Miami. (Getty Images)
Former Miami Dolphin Richie Incognito is a Bills captain for today’s game in Miami. (Getty Images)

MIAMI GARDENS–Rex Ryan loves payback, and one of his favorite methods is picking team captains based on which of his players used to play for the opponent.

For this afternoon’s game against Miami, Ryan chose five ex-Dolphins as his captains:
Continue reading “Rex Ryan sends out five ex-Dolphins as Bills captains”

How do Dolphins fare at game of tag? Here’s scorecard of hits, misses

[cmg_cinesport url=”http://cinesport.palmbeachpost.com/embed/palm-beach-nfl-miami-dolphins/cbs-sports-dolphins-transition-vernon/”%5D

The Dolphins slapped the transition tag on defensive end Olivier Vernon on Tuesday, which doesn’t necessarily mean he’s staying or going, only that Miami has the right to match outside offers.

Charles Clay
Charles Clay

It’s not often that the Dolphins have resorted to using the transition or franchise tags. Here’s an analysis of how each case turned out:

TE Charles Clay

2015, transition tag

The lowdown: Clay broke out with 759 receiving yards in 2013 and was named by peers among the league’s top 100 players. But he struggled through an injury-plagued 2014. The Dolphins hoped to retain him anyway, possibly pairing him with Jordan Cameron in a two tight end set in ’15, but the Bills swooped in and signed him to an offer the Dolphins could refuse (five years, $38 million).

The verdict: Questionable move by Miami. Yes, Clay managed just 528 yards for the Bills this season, but he’s still only 26 and those 528 yards look decent compared to 386 from Cameron. Then there’s the money. The Dolphins saved about $1 million by using the transition tag on Clay rather than the franchise tag, which would have assured he’d stay. Did the Bills overpay? Doesn’t everybody overpay in free agency?

DT Randy Starks

2013, franchise tag

Randy Starks makes a tackle against Atlanta (Allen Eyestone / Post photographer)
Randy Starks makes a tackle against Atlanta (Allen Eyestone / Post photographer)

The lowdown: Starks had been to the Pro Bowl two of the previous three seasons and played at a high level with the tag, with 36 tackles (second-most of his career) and four sacks in 2013.

The verdict: Performance-wise, tagging Starks made sense. In reality, it can be questioned. Starks skipped voluntary workouts the spring he was tagged and for whatever reason never escaped Joe Philbin’s doghouse. Sure, Starks could be a tough guy to read, but if Philbin felt that way about him, maybe a divorce would have been beneficial for both parties.

 

DT Paul Soliai

2011, non-exclusive franchise tag

Paul Soliai (Post File)
Paul Soliai (Post File)

The lowdown: This tag was a bit of a surprise. Soliai was the quiet type who enjoyed a strong season in 2010 at a key position, so the Dolphins agreed to bump his salary from $550,000 to $12.5 million. Soliai earned it that year, making the Pro Bowl, and stuck around for two additional seasons before joining the Falcons. Now 32, he’s about to be cut by Atlanta and there’s a buzz that his landing spot could be in Davie.

The verdict: You don’t let Pro Bowl defensive linemen (like Vernon?) walk in this league.

 

Jason Taylor
Jason Taylor

DE Jason Taylor

2001, franchise tag

The lowdown: It sounds comical today. By hitting J.T. with the tag, the Dolphins agreed to pay him $5.39 million that year. Or, as Ndamukong Suh calls it, “my Starbucks budget this week.”

The verdict: If you don’t know, you wouldn’t be reading this. Let’s just say 18.5 sacks in 2002, defensive player of the year in 2006.

 

OT Richmond Webb

1999 and 2000, franchise tag

Richmond Webb (Scott Halleran /Allsport)
Richmond Webb (Scott Halleran /Allsport)

The lowdown: Webb is one of the best offensive linemen in team history, a seven-time Pro Bowl performer who greatly reduced the number of bruises on Dan Marino’s body.

The verdict: Webb was well past his Pro Bowl form by 1999 (his last trip to Hawaii was in 1994), but the only other option was Brent Smith, so it’s understandable that the Dolphins wanted to get as much mileage as possible from Webb.

 

DT Tim Bowens

1998, franchise tag

Tim Bowens (Allen Eyestone / Palm Beach Post)
Tim Bowens (Allen Eyestone / Palm Beach Post)

The lowdown: Bowens was just 25, coming off a season with 34 tackles and five sacks, and after being tagged made the Pro Bowl twice over the next five seasons.

The verdict: Bowens never was one to post spectacular numbers and could have been more of a force as a pass rusher. He was considered a run-stopper who clogged the middle, allowing Zach Thomas to make 80-100 tackles.