By: Jason Sarney
Two days are in the books in Davie, Florida and the Miami Dolphins training camp is in full swing. A four-pack of Dolphins met with South Florida media Wednesday morning, including the 2019 AFC leading wide-receiver in yardage, DeVante Parker. Joining his was free agent linebacker Elandon Roberts, safety Eric Rowe and tight end Mike Gesicki.
Prior to anything, there was some negative news, as linebacker Vince Biegel was carted off the practice field with a leg/knee injury, as reported by several team beat writers prior to the press conference. News on his status will be updated as it comes in.
Leading of the presser was Parker, and regarding getting better and building off last season, Parker says, "for me I still have work to do on come-back routes and things like that." He adds, "I’m just trying to learn this offense down pat and get ready to go."
On being a veteran and speaking to the loss of Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson to opt-outs, Parker says some of the roles he has is to, "teach the guys the little things from what I experienced as a rookie...just be there for them whenever they need it."
The question was inevitably asked about the progress rookie quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa. Parker said, “he's got pretty good spin on the ball. He has a lot to learn but I can't wait."
Parker has a training camp of head-to head practice with new free agent cover-corner, Byron Jones. Regarding going up against Jones, Parker says, "yea, Byron, he's a good player." He adds, "he plays different technique and you have to adjust to that."
"We are going to be making each other better,” Parker said.
The heavy workload of Parker was out of necessity following last season’s upstart rookie Preston Williams, leading the team in targets prior to his Week 9 knee injury against the New York Jets on a punt return.
Parker finished the season with 1,202 yards on 72 receptions and found the endzone 9 times. In his previous four seasons with Miami, Parker totaled the same number of touchdowns.
Its clear Parker was focused on one lone goal heading into this year.
"Staying healthy, playing 16 games, that's it.”
Next up was free agent Elandon Roberts who was drafted by New England in 2016 and has seen action as a linebacker, a special teamer as well as a fullback. He even scored against the Dolphins last season on a reception out of the backfield.
Roberts, a 6th round draft pick of the Patriots who played his college ball at Houston, tells the South Florida media about his role. Roberts says, "every day I walk on the field and try to be the best player I can be, best teammate I can be, the best leader I can be."When asked about his potential roles on the team, Roberts said confidently, “whatever the Miami Dolphins need me to do, that's what I do."
Roberts talks about coach Brian Flores and the physicality of his practices. "Coach Flores comes from a background in scouting.” He continues, “you know the physicality is going to be up because that's part of the game."
Roberts joins Kyle Van Noy as another former Patriot who headed South. "Kyle, man...great guy on and off the field," Roberts said. Regarding what the coaches ask of the pair and the group as a whole, Roberts said, “whatever these guys [coaches] ask us to do, we are going to do.” Roberts added, “have fun and be a great teammate."
Roberts clearly has the correct team mindset as he closed his portion of the presser with more confident awareness. "I’m going to take advantage of my opportunities, and I think that is the mindset of the 80 players." "Every day you walk in, you know you have a job to do,” Roberts said.
Veteran defensive back Eric Rowe is entering his second season in Miami and his 6th overall. Yet another former Patriot, Rowe is a cornerback to safety convert, dating back to last season. Rowe tells the media about his conversion. "I remember the transition. One because we had injuries and two because when I was back there, I have really good knowledge of the defense."
Rowe was a second-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015 after starting in college at Utah. Rowe found the endzone last season Week 17, picking off former teammate, Tom Brady in a Miami victory to close the 2019 season. Rowe cites the areas he is working on this off-season and says, “there is always stuff to work on no matter where you play." Rowe says that run support and seeing the run quicker is what he is focused on working on, especially with moving from corner to safety.
Rowe knows the strength of the secondary as a whole and says, "the first thing; we have to gel together, and the second thing is getting the ball." Rowe add, “this year we are putting a huge emphasis on getting the ball."
"We even have a point board.”
Third year tight end, Mike Gesicki closed out the presser. Although he is labeled as such, he is more so a pass-catching threat able to line up in various spots on the field, specifically the slot. Gesicki says, "If you are in the slot, no matter who is covering you, go out and get open and let everything else take care of itself."
Gesicki had a monster last month and change of the season to end the 2019 campaign and finished with 51 receptions for 570 yards and five touchdowns. All five of those scores came from Week 12 on, so he enters 2020 with massive momentum, including the season’s final touchdown of last year, which lead to the Patriots losing home-field playoff contention.
Gesicki was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Penn State and has slowly but surely been improving his game, and this season could be a perfect storm of scenarios that fit his skill set perfectly.
In 2018 inversely, then-coach Adam Gase mis-used him as he was lined up way too often in his unnatural area as a blocker. Enter new offensive coordinator and NFL veteran in Gailey, who could literally dub Gesicki the teams main slot threat, especially with the opting of Hurns and Wilson.
Gailey returns to Miami after a 19-year gap with other jobs as well as time off, and he loves utilizing athletic receiving threats in the slot area of the field. Sure, the tight-end label may make people nervous, as the only tight end to have true success in a Gailey system was Tony Gonzalez. However, think of Gesicki more like an Eric Decker from when Gailey was calling the New York Jet plays.
Decker had a career year, and that is a role Gesicki could slide into well, being he played over 70% of his snaps in the slot last season. Certainly, with the opting out of those veterans mixed with Gailey’s scheme, that percentage can spike to 80% easily.
When talking about playing in a new offense again for Gailey, Gesicki said, "I think that is kind of the mindset, something new this year but at the end of the day it’s just football."
"Just know your role, know your assignments."
He went on to speak about playing with Ryan Fitzpatrick and how he helps everybody. Gesicki says, "with his experience and his knowledge of the game you'd be stupid not to ask him questions." He adds, "I try to talk to him no matter what the situation."
Gesicki could be a major red zone threat and he says, "running routes, making plays, and trying to get open down there, you don’t have to rush the route...stay patient." He adds, "I think it is more of just finding open spaces down there because it's more a condensed space."
Gesicki also shared his thoughts on the rookie signal-caller in camp. "Tua has been great, he said. “Great around the building great around the field."
There certainly seems to be a level of excitement and joy that comes with the hard work going on in Miami. There is a lot of work to be done, but it seems there is a palpable level of hope and fun happening in Davie.
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