The Miami Dolphins were beset by a few unexpected roster tragedies during the preseason. Ryan Tannehill. Raekwon McMillan. Ted Larsen. hey also enjoyed a couple of equally unexpected roster triumphs, none greater perhaps than the emergence of second-year wide receiver Jakeem Grant.
In the span of four weeks, Grant played himself off the roster bubble and into what could be a regular role with the Dolphins this season. No, he’s not going to play ahead of Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills or DeVante Parker but he’s going to play and he could play a lot.
Grant has earned the right to at least. Last Thursday, for example, Grant showed just how valuable he can be when he caught four passes for 141 yards and a touchdown and drew three penalties to help pace the Dolphins during a 30-9 preseason-ending victory over the Vikings.
That left Grant with eight catches (tied for the team lead), a team-leading 230 receiving yards and a team-best two touchdown receptions for the preseason, numbers that suggest he can be more than just a gimmick player.
That’s what offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen called Grant earlier in the year when he was asked what Grant’s role in the offense might be this year. He said he would be a gimmick guy, at least in part, but now it seems the Dolphins feel comfortable using him in a variety of ways.
Most importantly, he’s proved he can work on the outside. That was a concern of the Dolphins because at 5-foot-7 and 169 pounds, Grant is the kind of player who can easily get erased by a bigger corner before he even gets off the line of scrimmage.
But just look at Grant take off from the line on what proved to be his 65-yard touchdown pass against the Vikings. There’s no gimmicks here. This is a simple go route, Grant bursting off the line of scrimmage and blazing past the defense into the deep secondary.
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“(The cornerback) was playing inside leverage and he was pressed on me,’’ Grant said as he explained his strategy after the game to the Miami Herald. “And coach always talks about, if you outside release on that route, throw your hand up. That’s exactly what I did.’’
That’s the ability that sets Grant apart and what will likely allow him to go into the season as the first receiver off the bench and the top option to replace Landry, Stills or Parker should the Dolphins lose any of those weapons. He’s fast and he’s versatile.
“Yeah, just because he’s a little guy doesn’t mean (he has) to be a slot guy,’’ Christensen said during the offseason. “Sometimes outside you can throw him a hitch out there and he can turn it into a 50-yard play. So we are looking for ways for him to be an every down player more.’’
Earning that opportunity has been Grant’s goal since training camp began. Also a valuable return option, he set out to prove he has value elsewhere besides on special teams and in those gimmick plays as Christensen described them.
“I’m a receiver before a returner,” Grant said. “That’s what I’ve been harping on, that I can go out there and make big plays like Kenny (Stills), Jarvis (Landry) and DeVante (Parker). Whenever you put me in you can trust me. I’m going to make that big play and there’s not going to be a slack off.”