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.

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Marshawn Lynch coming back? Plenty of Miami Dolphins retired young, too

Ricky Williams. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, who was 29 when he walked away from the game, reportedly is considering coming out of retirement to play for the Oakland Raiders. Here are a few of the Dolphins players who for various reasons left football before you might expect:

RB Ricky Williams: The granddaddy of them all. Williams was 27 in 2004 when he stunned the NFL by announcing he was retiring. Of course, his retirement wasn’t permanent. He played six seasons after that, finally finishing at 34 — certainly not young by running back standards — with the Baltimore Ravens.

C Dwight Stephenson: Was only 30 in 1987, and finishing his fourth consecutive All-Pro season, when he was forced to retire because of a bad knee injury suffered against the Jets. Shortened career could not keep him out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Dolphins RB Knowshon Moreno. (Post photo)

TE Jordan Cameron: The most recent example, retiring at age 28 after one too many concussions.

RB Arian Foster: Abruptly announced had enough in the middle of the 2016 season at age 30.

OT Jonathan Martin: Dolphins’ 2012 second-round pick played only three NFL seasons, finishing at age 25 with the 49ers and never bouncing back from Bullygate.

RB Knowshon Moreno: Gained 1,038 yards for Denver in 2013 but  retired from the Dolphins less than a year later, at age 28, after playing just three games. Had suffered two ACL tears. Made noise about making a comeback last spring but it never materialized.

LB Channing Crowder: After the Dolphins released him in 2011, he decided he’d had enough at age 27 and entered broadcasting, happy that the word hits take on an entirely different meaning in the radio business.

DE John Bosa: Dolphins’ first-round pick in 1987 played only three injury-plagued seasons, leaving the game at age 25. Father of top Chargers rookie Joey Bosa.

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2017 NFL free agents: Which Miami Dolphins remain unsigned?

The Dolphins still need a starting linebacker, so maybe Jenkins isn’t totally out of their plans. (Getty Images)

The Dolphins took care of their big-ticket free agents by locking up Kenny Stills and Andre Branch on new deals this month, but many players from last year’s roster remain on the market.

The most significant free agency departure for Miami to this point was losing tight end Dion Sims, whom coach Adam Gase believes has high potential. Here’s a look at which 2016 Dolphins have yet to sign elsewhere:

LB Jelani Jenkins
The Dolphins drafted Jenkins in the fourth round in 2013 and he started 34 games for them, but there were indications last year that he might not be part of the team’s future plans. That said, Miami still needs a starting linebacker unless it’s ready to hand that job to Neville Hewitt.

G Jermon Bushrod
Bushrod switched from left tackle, where he played his entire career, to right guard last year and struggled. Pro Football Focus ranked him the No. 69 guard in the league. Bushrod said at the end of the season he would either return to Miami or retire.

LB Spencer Paysinger
Paysinger was a solid backup for the Dolphins last year and filled in as a starter for three games. He had 52 tackles and two fumble recoveries while playing 56 percent of the defensive snaps.

LB Donald Butler
Miami picked up Butler during the season after Koa Misi went down, and he started five games. General manager Chris Grier said he was a great find the by the personnel department, but it appears unlikely he’d have a significant role going forward if he stays.

TE Dominique Jones
Jones didn’t produce much for the Dolphins last season, and they declined to place a tender on him or re-sign him at the start of free agency. They will likely look elsewhere.

S Bacarri Rambo
Rambo was another in-season pickup for Miami and he played nine games, including five starts. PFF had him 87th among safeties last year.

QB T.J. Yates
Nothing wrong with Yates, who actually jumped in and took a snap during the playoff game, but the Dolphins are set with their top two quarterbacks in Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore. Anyone else at that position needs to be a developmental project like Brandon Doughty.

DE Mario Williams
You already know.

TE Jordan Cameron
Cameron never got back to a Pro Bowl level in his two years with the Dolphins and announced his retirement this month after multiple concussions.

S Isa Abdul-Quddus
Miami designated Abdul-Quddus as waived/failed physical and his career is believed to be over.

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Miami Dolphins’ Mike Pouncey: Jordan Cameron can’t be referring to me

Mike Pouncey. (Getty Images)

There is love in the Dolphins’ locker room after all.

Dolphins center Mike Pouncey sounded surprised to hear that former teammate Jordan Cameron was quoted as saying he didn’t think many NFL players actually “love” the game. Cameron, a tight end, recently retired at age 28 after his fourth concussion in six seasons, the final two of which were in Miami.

“I don’t think a lot of these guys love football, to be honest,” Cameron told ESPN in a revealing interview. “A lot of them don’t. You play for other reasons, and every guy has their own reason. They know why, and as long as your why is really important, you keep playing without really loving football.”

Pouncey said he knows why he keeps playing — because he does love football.

“He couldn’t be talking about me,” Pouncey said after finishing his round at the Jason Taylor Foundation’s annual golf benefit at Weston Hills Country Club.

“I wouldn’t be able to speak for him but personally, myself, I love football, so that’s why I play it,” said Pouncey, offering perspective from a guy who has endured more than his share of injuries, too.

Although it never occurred to Pouncey to take a poll around the locker room, he said he’d like to think most of his current teammates love the game, too.

“I would hope so,” Pouncey said.

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Ex-Miami Dolphins tight end Jordan Cameron: Few players really ‘love’ football

Jordan Cameron recently retired from the NFL. (Getty Images)

The Dolphins love to say they’re after players who love football.

Former tight end Jordan Cameron wasn’t one of them — but he says he’s not alone.

“I don’t think a lot of these guys love football, to be honest,” Cameron told ESPN in a revealing interview. “A lot of them don’t. You play for other reasons, and every guy has their own reason. They know why, and as long as your why is really important, you keep playing without really loving football.

“Because really, who loves to get hit in 10-degree weather by a 280-pound person? Really, no one likes that. ‘Do you love football?’ I couldn’t stand when people asked me that.”

Cameron, 28, recently retired after suffering his fourth concussion in six seasons. He caught 35 passes for 386 yards and three touchdowns his first season with the Dolphins, 2015, but was three games and 60 yards last season.

Cameron admitted the injuries affected the way he approached the game.

“You’re playing physical and you’re playing an intense, violent game,” Cameron said. “You have to gear yourself up for that, but it’s hard to gear yourself up if you’re thinking about getting hit or what the implications might be.”

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Report: Former Miami Dolphins TE Jordan Cameron to retire

Jordan Cameron reportedly is retiring from the NFL. (Getty Images)

After four concussions in the past four years, it appears veteran tight end Jordan Cameron’s career is finished at age 28.

Cameron will retire this offseason, according to CBS’ 24/7 Sports, ending a six-year run. He played the past two years for the Dolphins, but he went on Injured Reserve last season after suffering a concussion in Week 3.
Continue reading “Report: Former Miami Dolphins TE Jordan Cameron to retire”

Adam Gase envisions strong TE pairing with Julius Thomas, Dion Sims

Dion Sims is another free agent the Dolphins would like to retain. (Getty Images)
Dion Sims is another free agent the Dolphins would like to retain. (Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS–The Dolphins are days away from finalizing a longstanding agreement with Jacksonville that will land them tight end Julius Thomas, but coach Adam Gase sees a significant role for Dion Sims as well.

Tight end was a problematic position for Miami last season, and Sims led the group with 26 catches, 256 yards and four touchdowns. The Dolphins expected solid production from Jordan Cameron, who was a Pro Bowl pick in 2013, but his season ended in Week 3 because of a concussion.
Continue reading “Adam Gase envisions strong TE pairing with Julius Thomas, Dion Sims”

Season over, Dolphins TE Jordan Cameron intends to keep playing

Jordan Cameron hopes to return from the concussions that have derailed his career. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)
Jordan Cameron hopes to return from the concussions that have derailed his career. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE–The Dolphins ended tight end Jordan Cameron’s season by placing him on Injured Reserve last week, but Cameron seems intent on continuing his career despite four concussions in the past four years.

Miami coach Adam Gase said Monday the idea behind ruling out Cameron was partly to give him ample time to consider his options and decide whether he wanted to keep playing.
Continue reading “Season over, Dolphins TE Jordan Cameron intends to keep playing”

Dolphins TE Dion Sims (concussion) practicing, not cleared to play

Dion Sims is almost back. (Getty Images)
Dion Sims is almost back. (Getty Images)

DAVIE–Dolphins tight end Dion Sims appears to be nearing his return from a concussion.
Continue reading “Dolphins TE Dion Sims (concussion) practicing, not cleared to play”

Miami Dolphins inactives vs. Buffalo Bills: Top two tight ends remain out

It's a throwback game for the Dolphins this afternoon vs. Buffalo. (Getty Images)
It’s a throwback game for the Dolphins this afternoon vs. Buffalo. (Post photo)

MIAMI GARDENS– It’s a perfect day at Hard Rock Stadium as the Dolphins get ready to host the Bills. Miami is shooting to reach 3-4 as it heads into the bye week, which would give it a shot at .500 when it hosts the Jets on Nov. 6.

For today’s game, here are the Dolphins’ inactives:
Continue reading “Miami Dolphins inactives vs. Buffalo Bills: Top two tight ends remain out”