Dolphins coach Tony Sparano likes his wide receivers.
I know, I know, we've heard this before. We heard it in 2008 when the Miami wide receivers weren't good enough. We heard it in 2009 when the Miami wide receivers weren't good enough. We're hearing it now.
“Well I like where we’re at right now with this group, I really do," Sparano said. "They’re all young; Brandon is the old man of the group and that’s a good problem to have. Now we have Davone for a, for a longer time now. Obviously Brian is only in his second year and the two young kids we have (Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore) we really like. I like the way that group is coming along. They’re not afraid to work; these guys go out in practice and they work their tails off out there. (Wide Receivers Coach) Karl (Dorrell) does a tremendous job I think of coaching those guys, really getting good development out of all of them. Brandon may have played his best game to date in this game. When I say that you say sure he caught ten balls for whatever he caught (127 yards) but I’m talking about fundamentally. I’m talking about how he ran his routes, the depth he ran his routes, the way he used his releases and all those things. I think that kind of growth, you kind of got to look at Karl too."
The difference between this statement now and the ones Sparano made the last two years is that, this time, you can be relatively certain it is not just coachspeak. This time, we see production on the field from the receivers to make the words resonate. This time, you don't feel like the coach is simply protecting a group and not throwing them under the bus.
This time the Dolphins do have an emerging set of receivers.
Marshall is elite. And he is getting better as his timing and experience in Miami's system and with his Miami teammates improve.
"I just know the guy played a really good football game (against Green Bay)," Sparano said. "At times, at times he was 12 feet tall out there. You were throwing the ball up and he’s going to get it in the middle of the field and doing those kind of things. To me I said this earlier in the week, when you challenge that guy in those situations and you’re the kind of player that Brandon is, I think that’s really what he, he enjoys that."
Miami's receiver corps is more than just Marshall. Davone Bess is playing very well. He's playing well enough that Miami gave him a three-year contract extension in the last week, the breakdown of which can be found in Tim Graham's AFC East blog on ESPN.com.
Hartline, a disappointment to the team in the preseason, is coming on now. He had perhaps his best game Sunday that included a reception made while on his back on a pass quarterback Chad Henne threw behind him.
And I see that Wallace is getting slightly more snaps in the little-used four-wide package.
So is Miami's receiver corps elite? No, not quite there yet.
But neither are the Dolphins desperately searching to make a trade for Vincent Jackson, either. (Although I have advocated piling talent upon, talent to freak the rest of the AFC East out).
The bottom line?
The Dolphins are pleased with their wide receivers again this year. Only this time, we're starting to see why.
The play Bess makes in overtime now, now that’s a tremendous play. You want to talk about quarterback friendly, that’s as good a play as you’re going to see just moving without the ball. I mean I think (Miami Heat) Coach (Erik) Spoelstra would love that down there, moving without the ball. It’s a tremendous play; he catches it and he gets the first down. It’s really, it was a neat thing to watch.”