DeVante Parker is hurt again, but Miami is Prepared

The Miami Dolphins’ receiver room has had as much shakeup over the last 3 days as any unit in the NFL. Following the trading of Jakeem Grant 3 days ago and the placing of Will Fuller on Injured Reserve on Wednesday, DeVante Parker has come down with a hamstring injury that leaves him questionable for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.

Coming off of his best game of the season, Parker snagged 4 balls for 77 yards and a TD. Among these, multiple tough contested catches on deep throws, an element Miami hadn’t seen thus far.

Jacoby Brissett throws a TD to DeVante Parker.

This Dolphins receiving unit has been reminiscent of last year, which saw a myriad of injuries. With Parker and Preston Williams going down, Miami relied on unproven receivers such as Mack Hollins, Antonio Callaway and Lynn Bowden Jr. for production in 2020.

But, even through injures, Miami’s group this year is much deeper. After seeing an inability to separate in 2020, the Dolphins made a commitment to improving the group, adding the aforementioned Fuller as well as young QB Tua Tagovailoa’s collegiate teammate in Jaylen Waddle.

The Dolphins also had some notable returns in Preston Williams and Albert Wilson, the latter of which opted out of 2020 due to COVID concerns.

The bottom line is that Miami’s group is still deep, and more than capable of being good enough for Tagovailoa or Brissett to win games.

While they will be looking for contributions from their veterans, young speedster Jaylen Waddle is in a prime position for a bigger role.

Jaylen Waddle

Waddle has seen his fair share of targets, leading rookie wideouts in catches with 25. But even with the volume of touches, the scheming has been questionable at best, as many of his opportunities have come in situations where it has been different to get yards after the catch, something he flourished with at Alabama.

Jaylen Waddle scores an explosive TD.

But with the slot position open, Waddle is now undoubtedly the most explosive healthy wide receiver on the roster, and his usage rate will be increasing with him now being the number 1.

He should also see more downfield targets, as he has been open on several deep routes, but Jacoby Brissett has missed him. With Miami reviewing the film and ways to beat a high powered Buccaneers team, I expect more shots to be taken.

Jaylen Waddle was wide open…but Jacoby Brissett misses it.

The ever interesting aspect of Waddle’s game that we haven’t seen enough of is his ability to make quick cuts. Often times in college, a jet sweep, screen or slant route could turn into a 50+ yard score. It’s no question that Waddle has top end agility, but it’s also clear Miami is figuring out how to use him.

Tua Tagovailoa throws a TD to Jaylen Waddle.

While he only saw 3 catches against the Colts, his looks and routes were promising. He was often running farther down the field, and was able to average 11 yards per catch. That’s up from less than 5 in the previous game against the Raiders.

If Miami’s Offensive Co-Coordinators are able to figure out the learning curve of Waddle’s explosive playstyle, his production could grow exponentially, especially with the injuries to Parker and Fuller.

Williams and Hollins

As for other potential contributors, 2 receivers have a connection with Tua Tagovailoa, who should come back next week against the Jaguars.

Mack Hollins and Preston Williams were both some of Tagovailoa’s main targets in 2020, both catching a TD vs the Cardinals (widely looked at as Tua’s best game).

Mack Hollins scores a TD vs. the Cardinals.

After losing Williams to a foot injury, Tagovailoa looked significantly less comfortable, and he could look for his security blanket in his first weeks back from a rib injury.

Tagovailoa also showed some chemistry with Albert Wilson in camp, as the 2 connected on several deep passes in the offseason. Although Wilson has struggled of late, a push into the lineup could bring some of the explosiveness he showed in 2018 before a season ending hip injury.

Tua throws a BOMB to Albert Wilson

The Tight Ends

We could also expect a bigger role from the tight end group, namely Mike Gesicki.

Gesicki, along with Waddle, has seen a lack of manufactured space on targets, but with these injuries, he could see more target share.

Mike Gesicki catches a TD.

Synopsis

It’s going to take a group contribution to make up for the element DeVante Parker brings to this offense. His ability in 1-on-1 situations is elite, showing an ability to snag jump ball deep passes.

But after seeing this situation play out last year, Miami is much better prepared. Explosive slot players in Waddle and Wilson hope to bring speed and agility, while Hollins and Williams bring an element of chemistry to a returning young QB. It will be interesting to see how the Dolphins distribute snaps and who gets a lion’s share of the targets on Sunday and beyond.

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