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Miami Dolphins

What Did the Tight Ends Say? (6-11-18)

Jason Hrina



Image Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Each week, the Locked On Dolphins team will look to provide you with the latest quotes from your team’s coaches, players and front office executives. We will let you know what are they saying and interpret what it really means for the Miami Dolphins.

Earlier today, the Dolphins young group of tight ends spoke to the media after their OTA session.

For the first time in Ryan Tannehill‘s career, Dolphins fans finally have a position group to be leery of other than the offensive line.

While there is a bunch of excitement surrounding 2018 draft picks Mike Gesicki (2nd round) and Durham Smythe (4th round), Dolphins fans should look to dip their toes in the water before they jump right in.

Are they really the answer?

The tight end position is vital to the Dolphins (and Tannehill’s) success. In the two seasons Charles Clay was a viable receiving target (receiving 50+ targets throughout the year), Tannehill eclipsed 4000 yards and threw for at least twice as many touchdowns as he did interceptions.

Since Clay’s departure, Miami’s tight end room has been a mix of future potential and former glory.

Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas have been the most well-known tight ends on the roster, though players like MarQueis Gray and Dion Sims have produced better results.

Thing is, Gray and Sims aren’t the type of play makers that are going to evolve an offense.

Which explains why Gesicki and Smythe were two of the first four draft choices for the Dolphins. One has the potential to be the next Jimmy Graham, while the other should shape into a younger and cheaper Anthony Fasano.

None of this even hints at the possibilities AJ Derby can bring to the offense.

Claimed by the Dolphins after he was waived-injured by the Denver Broncos in November of 2017, Derby expects to compete with both rookies for a starting spot. Though his skill set isn’t as explosive as Gesicki’s or as smooth as Smythe’s, Derby should provide a decent compliment to the two; assuming he can beat out MarQueis Gray for the backup role.

Below is a breakdown of what a few of the tight ends on the roster had to say:

Mike Gesicki:

“When the ball comes my way it’s my job to make a play”

Gesicki seems to know exactly what’s expected of him. While blocking is another subject – one he’s working vastly on improving – Gesicki is expected to be the receiving threat Miami has been missing at the position.

He’s also not placing too many expectations on himself, unlike what some Dolphins fans have been doing since he was drafted:

“I’m not worried about the production on the field right now. What I’m most concerned about is showing the coaches that I know my job….that I can be trusted.”

Gesicki seems to be garnering some trust from Tannehill. Fans were elated to see the social media video of Tannehill teaching Gesicki a play, and that wasn’t just for show. Seems Tannehill has been taking this leadership thing seriously.

Gesicki thinks “he’s a really good mentor. I get to see his attributes as a leader. He’s vocal, he’s doing all the right things.”

Being a receiver in college certainly helps Tannehill get his message across when explaining the nuances he’s looking for. Gesicki even has a mentor he can rely on in the tight end room with AJ Derby.

AJ Derby:

Previously a quarterback at Iowa, Derby can decipher and translate what a quarterback may be looking for quicker than another position player.

When asked why Gase considered him a QB-friendly TE, Derby believed it “goes back to knowing the position from a different way (as an ex-QB).”

Derby spent a lot of time with Tannehill this offseason. He revealed that Tannehill contacted him frequently throughout the offseason to get together and throw.

So what did Derby learn in those sessions?

“He’s very detail oriented. He wants you exactly where he wants you.”

This should come as no surprise to Dolphins fans, who heard Adam Gase discuss how he wants his players to know the playbook in-and-out, without freelancing their roles.

In this offense, the quarterback is responsible for throwing to a specific spot. Tannehill expects the player to be in that exact spot at the exact time the play is designed for.

With all of the chatter about how (poorly) Miami will perform this season, Derby had this bit of optimism:

“I think we have a good team, I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people this year.”

Durham Smythe:

Coming out of the draft, Smythe’s knocks were the opposite of Gesicki’s. He was an exceptional blocker, but wasn’t much of a receiver.

Sep 12, 2015; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Durham Smythe (80) blocks against the Virginia Cavaliers at Scott Stadium. Image Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When asked if he felt underappreciated as a receiver coming into the draft, Smythe balked, letting everyone know that he felt “with (the) offense we ran at Notre Dame, I wasn’t targeted much.” That displaying his skills as a receiver “was something I tried to show throughout the pre-draft process.”

Everything is bigger when you transition from college to the NFL.

How much bigger is the playbook from college? “Volumes. Double (the size).” And that isn’t accounting for how quickly players are asked to learn the playbook.

Gesicki joked that he is given a new “installment” (update to the playbook) not even an hour before practice. Which would be fine if the updates were minor, but they’re “already on install 10”

Though that shouldn’t strike any fear into fans, Smythe seems to have everything under control.

“For me, I’m trying to make (transitioning to the NFL) my strength. All of my focus is on the playbook and little technique things here-or-there.”

One thing that doesn’t come with the transition to the pros? Adjusting to the heat. The heat “is definitely an adjustment”, said Smythe.

Each rookie seemed to have a comment about the humidity in Miami – which makes me wonder why Miami doesn’t look to utilize this more as a homefield advantage (less 4pm games, more home games earlier in the season, etc).

Overall, the tight ends spoke about cohesion in the tight end room. Each player is there to help the other improve; which would be nice for the Dolphins, who are relying on three unproven tight ends to complete their offense in 2018.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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