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Brandon Gibson's return a feel good story

Brandon Gibson is the Dolphins starting slot receiver now. And he's again becoming one of quarterback Ryan Tannehill's favorite targets, as the touchdown throw and catch between quarterback and receiver in the first preseason game proved.

Does that sound mundane?

It should not.

Gibson, you see, seems to be about in the same place he was during training camp 2013 and indeed last October. And the fact he is no worse for wear after he blew out a patellar tendon in a game against New England 11 months ago speaks to a great recovery.

How great is that recovery?

Well, the Dolphins were unsure it would happen. They were so unsure they drafted Jarvis Landry in the second round in April to make sure they had enough healthy receivers to play this season. Landry, like Gibson, is a slot receiver so it is pretty obvious who he was drafted to replace.

But Gibson has been a case study in a steady, good recovery. How good? Well, Landry is among the most impressive rookies in camp. But he's still behind Gibson.

Gibson has been managed during the offseason and there are days he still is limited in practice. But he's starting at his position. And he'll start at that spot in the regular-season opener against New England.

That's a far cry from that October day in Foxboro last year.

"I tried not to let it get me down," Gibson said Thursday. "I know today, with how good doctors are, as good as rehab is, I looked at it from the standpoint of an opportunity for me to get better. I didn't want to take any time off and be lazy. I wanted to use the time to make everything right. I wanted to make sure I stayed on top of my game. I told myself that I wanted to make the most of this opportunity and I want to capitalize whatever way I could."

Gibson was capitalizing when the injury happened. He was among the league leaders in converting third downs at the time and he was trying to make a mark on his new team after signing as a free agent. So obviously the timing of the injury was horrible.

"The ups and downs of playing in St. Louis and then coming here in free agency and looking forward to making an impact with my new team, it was disappointing not being able to continue playing and getting better and helping my team," Gibson said.

But this is a new year and there are new opportunities. And Gibson is likely to get plenty of them because he's improving with each passing day. That chemistry he had with Tannehill last year?

It is still there.

"I think when he left the team or got hurt in New England, third down, he was one of the leaders in the league in terms of percentage of conversions and those types of things," coach Joe Philbin said. "I think he’s a quarterback-friendly guy. He’s got very good hands and he’s smart. He can read coverages, understands the leverage, when I turn out and turn in, when I should stay on the move, when I should sit down. So I think the quarterbacks, most of them, get comfortable with him pretty quick."

So can Gibson pick up where he left off? Well, he doesn't want to think in terms of being 100 percent or not. He said coaches are managing him well and he expects to contribute as much this year as he was last year.

And the Dolphins seem to expect the same.

"I think it was a significant injury, number one," Philbin said. "Number two, he was very diligent in the offseason working hard. It’s taken some time, there’s no question about that. I thought we did a good job managing some of his repetitions early in camp. He now kind of looks to be hopefully rounding into form, if you will. I thought he played well the other night. Hopefully, that will continue.

" We are still monitoring the reps. We don’t want to give him too many yet. I think he’s feeling better and I think he’s moving better. That usually translates into a better performance. Hopefully, that trend continues, you know. I see positive signs toward that."

So do I.