When the Miami Dolphins used two picks in the 2016 NFL draft on wide receivers, a few fans, myself included, questioned the sanity of adding two players at a position where the team appeared to have plenty of depth.
Leonte Carroo from Rutgers was drafted in the third round, and Jakeem Grant from Texas Tech was added in the sixth round. When I questioned on Twitter why the team was adding backups when we had positions of need, I got reamed for suggesting that either of these guys would be backups.
Well, four months later, I just want to take a moment and humbly say, “Hey guess what, guys, I was right.”
With Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, and DeVante Parker holding down the starting spots, Carroo is battling for the prime backup spot with Griff Whalen, who has been having a great camp, while Grant appears destined for kick return duties. Rashawn Scott is the only other wide receiver currently on the roster.
As is the case with most rookies, the game is played much faster at the NFL level than they played in college. It takes a while for all rookies to acclimate to that speed, and pick up the nuances, especially at the wide receiver position, where players can take up to three years to fully grasp the concepts and complexity of offensive schemes.
Head coach Adam Gase has a firm grasp on what it takes to make the transition.
“It's one of those things where when we get in the classroom, they're good,” said Gase. “But then (on the field) when you start having to make some adjustments, sometimes (they) just draw a blank - whether it is a signal or a code word - and that's when it becomes tough because it's happening fast.”
While no one can deny that the two rookie wide receivers have the physical talent to play at the NFL level, the part that’s hard is the mental aspect. Learning the playbook, knowing the protections, and understanding audibles and key words can be intimidating enough for a new player, but putting them into practice can take even longer. And Gase says both rookies are picking up things fine in the classroom, especially Carroo.
“When you're in the classroom and there's no pressure of a guy lining up across from you, 'Hey, is he press? Is it cloud? What's going on as far as my adjustment?' There are a lot of adjustments that you have to make, but classroom-wise they're good.
“And then we're obviously always learning something (in practice) every day. There are probably one or two things that come up where they haven't run a certain concept or a certain route against a DB. That'll happen every once in a while, but that's why you practice. You try to get them to do as many things that they haven't done before. We're making strides though, because Carroo is about as sharp as they come and he works hard at it to make sure that he's ready to go.”
As for Grant, Gase is working to install plays that will utilize the diminutive, but deceptively powerful and fast rookie. Grant will likely open the season at Seattle returning punts and playing on special teams, but the plan is to incorporate him in the offense.
“I think we are comfortable in the role we have him in right now,” said Gase. “Obviously when we go up to Seattle, we'll finalize that. But he's done everything we've asked him to do; he's done it well. We just got to get him … to understand that we are not looking for just a specialist. We want a guy that can do both - returns and contribute on offense - and just be ready to go in there if needed.
“I think he's making strides. I know it's tough when you come to a completely different system than what he's used to. That's part of the growing pains of a rookie; but I think he is going in the (right) direction, and he is starting to make some steps now."
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
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