The Miami Dolphins most intriguing training camp battle will center on wide receiver Jakeem Grant. Will he make the team, or is he the odd man out?
One of the biggest questions the Miami Dolphins have heading into training camp this season is at the wide receiver spot. But unlike the team’s issues at guard, this is a good problem to have. The Dolphins simply have more talent at the position than they have spots available. With Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills as locks to make the team, who else makes the cut?
The Dolphins historically keep between five and six receivers on the squad. In the past five seasons, they’ve kept five receivers twice and six receivers twice. The outlier being in 2013, when they hit the regular season with only four active receivers. I can’t imagine they’d only keep four with the talent in this year’s crop. The decision between five and six may come down to the health of Ryan Tannehill’s knee.
If the team is leery about Tannehill’s return from a torn ACL, they may decide to keep a third quarterback — Brandon Doughty — which cuts down the available spots. Should that cut come at wide receiver, the team is left with Leonte Carroo, Isaiah Ford, Rashawn Scott, Damore’ea Stringfellow, Francis Owusu, and Jakeem Grant fighting for two roster spots.
I don’t think it’s likely that Stringfellow, Owusu or Scott make the jump to the active roster to start the 2017 NFL season. That leaves just Carroo, Ford, and Grant. The Dolphins traded up in the 2016 NFL Draft to land Carroo, the former Rutgers receiver, in the third round. Carroo had a disappointing rookie campaign, and buzz around fans has been that his job could be in trouble.
I’m not sure how much stock I put in that talk, however. The culture has been rapidly changing in Miami with new head coach Adam Gase and general manager Chris Grier. To cut ties with Carroo now, without ever really giving him a chance, would be a significant blow to the front office. They’ve started reversing years of mistrust from the fans, I’m not sure cutting ties with someone you gave up draft capital to select would do anything but undo that work.
Where the position battle gets really interesting is between seventh-round pick Isaiah Ford and incumbent Jakeem Grant. Ford has a ton of talent and, in my opinion, should have been taken long before the seventh round. However, he does have a lot of things he still needs to work on. Adding bulk and play strength are chief among those necessary improvements.
Since Ford is a rookie, if the Dolphins decide that he is too much of a developmental project for the active roster, they could try to stash him on the practice squad. Sending a player to the practice squad doesn’t ensure that you’re able to retain said player, though.
Any team could swoop in and sign Ford away from the team at that point, for the right offer. Miami’s front office may have to decide if Ford has shown enough in camp to lock down, or if they’re willing to risk losing him. That’s not usually a decision that’s hard to make with a seventh-round selection.
So that just leaves Jakeem Grant. Or does it? Grant struggled mightily last season. He rarely saw the field as a receiver. When he did, he made no contribution to speak of. To make the situation worse for himself, he also struggled in his primary responsibility: returning punts. Grant took on the bulk of the punt return duties for the Dolphins in 2016 and made some electric plays for the team. Grant averaged over eight yards per return and returned one punt for a touchdown.
Conversely, Grant had some major struggles with the position. He had not previously been a punt returner, and it showed. Grant had four fumbles as the team’s primary return man, though to his credit, only one was lost. With Grant’s lack of size and his struggles as a returner, Miami could choose to cut ties with Grant and delegate return duties to either Landry or running back Kenyan Drake.
Is it possible that Grant is the odd man out in that scenario? Anything is possible, but I don’t think it’s likely. The front office asked Grant to take on responsibilities he’d never had before. Though he struggled at times, I think they’re likely to give him another year.