DAVIE—Welcome to the youngest and possibly most energetic corner of the Dolphins’ locker room: the wide receivers. Old sage Kenny Stills is the only one in this group old enough to get a rental car with no questions asked, and he fills somewhat of a professorial role at the grizzled age of 25.
There’s no debate over who stands most prominently at the position—Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Stills are the unquestioned starters—but there’s no sense of a pecking order among the players. No depth chart will ever stand in the way of Jakeem Grant calling out Landry for factual inaccuracies.
Today’s topic is elusiveness, and Landry knows Grant will shoot him a look the second these words come out of his mouth.
“Come on, man,” Landry says. “I’m the best in the open field.”
He glances at Grant, knowing exactly what’s coming.
“Man, you already know,” Grant interjects. “Just stop it.”
These are their competitions. It’s not about snaps, catches, touchdowns, yardage or anything like that. They care about that, certainly, but that’s more of a way to compare themselves against the rest of the league.
In the building, the battles are about uncharted categories like the one Landry and Grant got into, or who goes the hardest in practice reps. They boast about pancake blocks, a byproduct of the group’s “no block, no rock” mantra.
And the chatter never stops. From the time they get in the building, through practice, into the meeting room and their lockers, there’s rarely a lull.
“There’s so many categories of little things that receivers can do all the time,” Stills said. “So to keep ourselves interested and to push ourselves, we’ve gotta compete and talk trash to each other. I love being around these guys. They’re like my family.”
Nobody does the talking part better than Grant, a 5-foot-7 underdog with Texas-sized confidence. Most of his work came as a return man last year, but he still aspires to establish himself as a receiver and has no hesitation standing up to any of Miami’s big three.
Grant’s been getting lots of reps this offseason, working outside and in the slot, in hopes of proving himself as a new gadget for Adam Gase and he’s vocal about it. “I love that,” Landry said. Grant constantly tells Parker, Stills and Landry, “I’m coming for your spot” and in no way considers himself secondary to that trio.
“If you don’t feel like you’re the best receiver in the room, you’re not going to play like it,” Grant said. “I feel like I am. When I perform and I’m making plays, that pushes them to make plays and do better. That’s all it’s about, making each other better.”
It’s a close-knit cluster, but there’s good diversity among the personalities.
Landry has been one of the faces of the franchise the past two years, and his ferocity is well known. Stills is as eclectic as it gets in the NFL, and his most compelling thoughts have little to do with football. Parker’s the most mysterious to those on the outside because he rarely says anything publicly. Apparently that’s not the case behind the scenes.
“When they start going, they’re all getting after each other,” said Gase, though he later said sometimes it takes some instigating to get Parker going—not a problem since Gase specializes in that field. “I think when he has to do interviews he’s just not very talkative.”
The others are still trying to find their way, including second-year receivers Leonte Carroo and Rashawn Scott. Carroo is trying to prove he belongs after a fairly quiet rookie year, and Scott’s been on the sideline from his teammates as he rehabs a foot injury.
The Dolphins have seven rookie receivers in training camp trying to earn a spot, but their odds are long. Seventh-round pick Isaiah Ford has a knee injury and could be headed for Injured Reserve. Miami kept six receivers on the active roster last year, so there probably won’t be more than one spot available depending on Scott’s status.
When the Dolphins trim their roster for the regular season, they expect to go into it with one of the most talented receiver groups in the league. Landry is a two-time Pro Bowl pick who holds the NFL record for most catches in a player’s first three years, Stills led the team in touchdowns last year and Parker always seems to be on the cusp of a breakout year.
“It’s gotten to the point where he’s seeing that for himself and he’s making the plays that prove it,” Landry said of Parker. “We’ve gotta continue to get him to play that way and feel like that. He’s the total package.”
These guys always enjoy themselves, but this season will be even more fun if Parker rises to his potential. A collection of receivers all working to outdo each other can only be a good thing for the Dolphins.
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