When Jakeem Grant scooted around Giants defensive backs for 68 yards on four receptions in the preseason opener, it was easy to get excited.
When Mel Kiper started comparing Leonte Carroo to Charles Barkley – a physical player who could box out defenders – and others likened him to longtime NFL standout receiver Anquan Boldin, it was easy to get excited.
Both had impressive numbers as receivers in college: Grant caught 90 passes for 1268 yards and 10 touchdowns in Texas Tech’s pass-happy offense last season. Carroo had 29 touchdown receptions in 30 games at Rutgers, with a 19.5 average.
But we haven’t seen much of anything from the Dolphins’ rookie receivers in the passing game the past two weeks, largely because of lack of opportunity.
Grant has played six snaps of offense the past two weeks combined. Carroo played eight against Atlanta, fewer than AJ Cruz, who was cut two days later.
And both are antsy for a chance to log lots of offensive snaps in Thursday’s preseason finale against Tennesssee.
“Definitely,” Grant said.
Coach Adam Gase made clear this week that while he likes both players, both must eliminate the type of mistakes that rookies sometimes make.
"I think for me it's to the execution point of knowing what to do (and) being in the right spot,” Gase said. “Both of those guys have had those moments of having those mistakes where the quarterback thinks they're doing one thing and they do something different. We're making strides in that area. You just want it to happen as fast as possible.
“I think this game - with the game plan where it is and who knows what the weather is going to be like so I'm not sure how many times we'll actually get to throw it - we'd like to see them be as sound as possible as far as what they're supposed to do. And then you try to develop the techniques and the little details of the routes."
For weeks, Gase has been saying that Grant can’t go at the exact same speed when running all his routes. That’s still an issue, apparently.
“I still need to slow down,” Grant said this week. “I’ve been told go fast my whole life.”
And as far as the two rookies making adjustments to eliminate the type of mistakes that Gase referenced, Grant said: “We’re starting to get it really good. Transferring over to the field is going to be a hard thing because we’re rookies. We’re still kind of hesitant. We have to make sure we all move as one chain. All it takes is communication.”
As for Carroo, he said being the No. 4 receiver is important to him.
“I know I can make a lot of plays,” he said. “I want to show coaches what I can do in a full game.”
Receivers coach Shawn Jefferson has been pushing Carroo very hard. In fact, Grant said Jefferson was critical of Carroo even after he made a great catch in practice.
“I didn’t line up correctly at the start of the play,” Carroo said. “If you do one thing wrong, he will correct it. He doesn’t care about a great play. He wants a perfect play.”
Veteran Griff Whalen lined up as the No. 4 receiver in four-receiver sets in the Atlanta game last week and has filled that role a lot in practice, though Carroo said he got more first-team work this week, especially after DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills left practice with injuries that aren’t serious. (Parker has a hamstring issue again and won’t play Thursday; Stills’ back locked up Monday but he’s fine.)
The impression given is that the Dolphins feel more comfortable with the savvy Whalen as their fourth receiver, at least for now, than either of the two rookies.
Perhaps that changes tonight or over the next week or two. If it does not, then Whalen stands to make the team and Carroo could be inactive early in the season on game days, because Grant will be active as the team’s primary returner.
That’s why it’s important for Carroo, in particular, to show tonight that he’s ready to contribute.
One thing is clear: With only seven receivers on the 85-man roster, most or all of the receiver snaps tonight will go to Carroo, Grant, Whalen and undrafted former UM receiver Rashawn Scott.
FYI: Whereas special teams coach Darren Rizzi informed Andrew Franks that he will be the kicker, Grant said Rizzi hasn’t told him that he has won the return jobs.
“Him not telling me is fine with me,” Grant said. “It keeps me competing. I’m still gaining trust.”