It wasn't that long ago that the Miami Dolphins drafted DeVante Parker out of Louisville to become their new number one wide receiver, and it was an even shorter period of time that Parker had a surgery on his foot in order to ensure his long-term career with the team.
As a result, Parker missed out on all the 2015 offseason activities and wasn't able to really contribute to the team until about Week 12 of the regular season, when he caught four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. From that point on Parker started to show what he was known for at Louisville.
“It put me behind a lot having an issue (I) dealt with in college a little bit, too and it’s coming back here (to Miami) and (I) dealt with it again." Parker said. "It was a struggle, but (I) bounced back from it, and (I am) just ready and looking forward to this season now.”
It was clearly frustrating for Parker in 2015, not knowing when or even if he would be allowed to get onto the field, and that wasn't lost on his teammates, as QB Ryan Tannehill expressed.
“I think it was really frustrating, especially early on, just dealing with the foot injury and having a repeat of it." Tannehill said. "Just getting that confidence back … I think you saw – the last six to eight games of the year – his confidence start to build. He made more and more plays it seemed like as the weeks went on. He got more comfortable and more confident and was attacking the football. He’s starting at that point now. We can build from where he is at now, and the sky is the limit for him.”
What made Parker so appealing to the Dolphins was his ability to highpoint the football and come down with difficult catches, which will no doubt help Tannehill going into his second year. But his glaring weakness was his route-running, which is what he's been working on since he hit the field again.
“I feel like my route detail is getting a lot better, but we still have things we need to work on a little bit. (I’m) just coming out to practice every day and just (trying to) get better on everything. I always attack the ball all the time, and I need to work on just coming out of my route and finishing it at all times, no matter what.”
Parker is a man of few words, and most of his talking comes from what he does on the field. So far during OTAs, he's had to go up against cornerback Byron Maxwell, who is also a big and physical player who can challenge Parker's strengths. Head coach Adam Gase discussed whether he's seen improvement from the young receiver.
“That’s hard to say." he said. "You’re talking about three (days of) OTAs. He’s doing a good job as far as knowing what to do. He’s battling (CB Byron) Maxwell a lot it seems like. He has had some snaps where he has won, and he has had some snaps where he has lost. He’s feeling his way through. When you’re learning a new offense and trying to get the details of the routes down and you’re being challenged by a guy that’s practicing really well right now, it can be a challenge for a young player.”
Linebacker Jelani Jenkins says he expects Parker to take a huge step forward this year, and a lot of draft pundits see him as possibly becoming an A.J. Green type of player, a player who teams specifically game plan for and even fear. Ryan Tannehill sees Parker becoming that caliber player too.
“I expect big things out of him." Tannehill said. "I expect him to be a heck of a football player (and) a guy that other teams fear, because he can make big plays down the field (and) inside. He’s a big-bodied guy. He’s a guy that we’re going to want to use in the red zone and we’re going to want to use him on third downs and to stretch the field, as well.”
Parker only managed to contribute in eight games last year, but even then he was able to catch 26 passes for 494 yards and three touchdowns. Gase stated earlier in the offseason that the Bears had Parker on their draft wish list, so there's no doubt that he had plans for the 6'3" wide receiver out of Louisville.
Now in charge of the offense, Gase will get to try and make those plans a reality. Receivers will be all over the field at any given time, and Parker can't wait for the offense to come together so they can start making things happen.
“It’s very exciting to have that." Parker said. "The ball can go anywhere at any point in time, you just have to be ready for it. You never know when it’s your time to get it, but when it is, you have to be ready.
“I don’t have goals for myself. I just want to win games.”
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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