Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker was productive in his injury-shortened rookie season, finishing with 26 receptions for 494 yards and three touchdowns. But now, as the former Ballard High School and University of Louisville star enters his second year, expectations are ramped up.
Good might not be good enough in the new offense brought in by first-year coach Adam Gase.
For the that offense to be at its most dangerous, the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Parker might need to start this season where he ended his first, catching 13 passes for 286 yards in the final three games, averaging a field-stretching 22 yards per reception.
That’s where the bar is set for the 2015 first-round pick as the Dolphins head into their second three-day session of organized team activities Tuesday.
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“I think you saw, the last six to eight games of the year, his confidence start to build,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “He made more and more plays it seemed like as the weeks went on. He got more comfortable and more confident and was attacking the football.
“He’s starting at that point now. We can build from where he is at now, and the sky is the limit for him.”
To help achieve that lofty mark, the 23-year-old Parker spent a good part of the offseason with his fellow receivers catching passes from Tannehill.
They seem to be developing a trust factor.
“If I just stick with my technique at all times and have that defender beat, Ryan knows where to put the ball,” Parker said, “and I have to be in that spot to go up and make a play.”
The Dolphins already have an outstanding young wide receiver in Jarvis Landry, the reliable third-year player who made his Pro Bowl debut last season. Although the Dolphins plan to move their receivers — primarily Parker, Landry and Kenny Stills — all over the field this season, Landry is mainly a slot receiver.
The Dolphins need a dynamic outside receiver, a playmaker who is a constant threat to defenses because of his size, reliability and big-play skills.
They’re hoping that’s Parker.
He’s learning by facing veteran cornerback Byron Maxwell for long stretches in practice. Parker is taking his lumps.
“He’s battling Maxwell a lot, it seems like,” Gase said. “He’s had some snaps where he has won, and he’s had some snaps where he has lost. He’s feeling his way through.
“When you’re learning a new offense and trying to get the details of the routes down and you’re being challenged by a guy that’s practicing really well right now, it can be a challenge for a young player.”
Still, Parker is optimistic, largely because he’s healthy, free from the foot injury that dogged him as a senior at Louisville and as a rookie with the Dolphins.
“It was a struggle, but (I) bounced back from it, and (I’m) just ready and looking forward to this season now,” Parker said.
Tannehill is optimistic because he’s seen Parker’s talent.
“I expect him to be a heck of a football player (and) a guy that other teams fear, because he can make big plays down the field (and) inside,” the quarterback said.
“He’s a big-bodied guy. He’s a guy that we’re going to want to use in the red zone and we’re going to want to use him on third downs and to stretch the field as well.”