This offseason seems to be the year where the Miami Dolphins coaches and players are opening their hearts for the whole world to see.
First, Jordan Phillips came out and admitted that his motor has been "hot and cold" in previous seasons, then Jakeem Grant admitted that he lacked focus and confidence after dropping his first punt, and now wide receiver Leonte Carroo has come and said some very telling information regarding his disappointing rookie season.
“Last year, [I] just didn't have as [good] of a year as I wanted to,” said Carroo. “Kind of took being drafted for granted. Kinda wasn't doing the little things right I was doing right in college. Was more excited about the whole draft process and didn't really focus on being an NFL player."
The Dolphins drafted Carroo out of Rutgers in the third round of the 2016 NFL draft, but they paid a heavy price to get him, trading up to the 86th pick in the draft and giving up their 2016 sixth round pick, along with their third and fourth round picks in 2017, picks that would have been incredibly valuable in the deep 2017 draft.
So naturally, the odds were against Carroo coming out of the gate, as no one felt he was worth the price the Dolphins front office had to pay to get him. He didn't help matters when he ultimately got beat out in practice by undrafted free agent Rashawn Scott, who got called up to the active game day roster over him last season when injuries took their toll.
After being a starter since Pop Warner, and being forced to sit behind Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker on the depth chart, Carroo admitted on Wednesday that getting shunned in favor of Scott was a severe blow to his psyche and ego.
“It definitely made me upset,” Carroo said. “It had nothing to do with the coaches or any of the players. I was just upset with myself because it was totally on me. I was playing bad on special teams, I was performing poorly in practice, I wasn't doing enough. I wasn't asking my coaches to watch extra film or anything like that. Just not really focused on being a better player last year.”
Things are unlikely to change in 2017, as Kenny Stills signed a big money deal to stay in Miami long term, and Jarvis Landry is next to receiver an extension, while DeVante Parker is reportedly coming into his own at last, further tightening his grip on the last starting WR spot.
Which means Carroo will once again be forced to sit on the sidelines for a vast majority of the season, assuming he even makes the roster at all, as coach Adam Gase has made it clear that he doesn't care about salary, draft status or reputation, he just wants the best players and hardest workers.
So what has changed in Carroo since last year that this situation no longer bothers him?
“I'm attacking practice every single day to get better because I want to prove to these coaches that I'm going to be a better special teams player and I'm going to be a better receiver,” Carroo said. “When we went on that winning streak last year, just to see how guys were doing, it just made me upset that I wasn't doing anything to contribute as a third-round draft pick. This year I want to focus on just having that respect for my team and my coaches. Just to go out there and make plays and contribute to the winning that we're going to have this year."
This new mentality seems to be manifesting itself on the practice field, as special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi has recently stated that Carroo looks a lot better than he did last season.
"Carroo is moving a lot better." Rizzi said. "He has actually looked like he has really taken the offseason seriously in terms of movement and moving around."
It's a good thing that Carroo's mindset has evolved since his rookie year, since the wide receiver position is more crowded now than it was last year. With seventh round pick Isaiah Ford, fellow second-year receiver Jakeem Grant, and OTAs star Drew Morgan all fighting for the right to be a reserve wide receiver, Carroo needs to continue to step up and get himself back in the coaches' good graces.
Discarding his previous sense of entitlement and taking responsibility for his past failure is an excellent start.
“Last year, the coaches and my teammates had a lot of expectations for me,” Carroo said. “I did a poor job fulfilling those expectations. You last, last year is totally behind me. I'm a new guy this year. I'm a new person. I'm just excited for these OTA's, these next couple of practices and then training camp. And just controlling what I can control. And that's just getting better on the field every single day and proving to these coaches that I'm not the same Carroo from last year. I'm a different player. And I'm ready for the new year.”
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