No hype was like DeVante Parker’s hype in the spring.
“I really think he’ll have a great, big year — a gigantic year for us,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said in the offseason. “That would be huge.”
It has not happened.
Parker, more or less, is just as productive as he was in his first two seasons. Parker is 76th in catches (30), tied for 58th in receiving yards (378) and 116th in touchdown (1).
The former first-round pick is on pace for 53 catches for 672 yards and two touchdowns. None of those would be career highs.
So what happened? Well, Parker got hurt (again), missing three games because of an ankle injury. And he has not been the same since — physically, or apparently, mentally.
“He doesn't have the edge that he had coming out of training camp,” Christensen said Thursday. “But I do think that sometimes with those guys who are speed guys and outside guys you get a nagging thing and you just don't feel 100 percent. I'd say that that is the reason. There's still seven more games. We talked about it this morning. We have to get him right back to that level. He still could do some great things before this year is over and he could make it into a heck of a season.”
Parker was supposed to be Jay Cutler’s big-play receiver in 2017, but he instead has the worst yards-per-catch average of his career (12.6). Some is simply a matter of opportunities, Adam Gase said.
The Dolphins are not throwing deep nearly as much as they did last year — and nearly as much as we expected they would after Cutler lobbed up jumpball after jumpball to Parker in the summer.
“I basically catch just about everything that comes my way,” Parker said. “I've got to keep getting better.”
But Parker is in Year 3 now, and at some point, players are who they are. He struggled with the mental side of the game early in 2016 — prompting the coaches to publicly prod him to take his craft more seriously.
And while Gase insisted earlier this year that those issue s are behind him, Parker has yet to prove he can consistently be a No. 1 receiver.
“You always want that, but you're still dealing with a very young receiver, and you're dealing with a guy that's missed time early in his career,” Gase said. “I've been around this before, I've seen situations like this, where you're kind of waiting for a guy to take that step.
Parker acknowledged that his ankle has taken him off track, and that it is still “nagging” a bit. And while he surely would welcome more targets, he will not demand the ball.
“I'm not that type of player or person,” Parker said. “That's just not me.”
Is there ever a time for that?
“Probably when I got a little more years under my belt, maybe.”
▪ Kenny Stills walked off the practice field under the supervision of Dolphins trainers. He hurt his back, although the issue is not believed to be serious. Ndamukong Suh (knee) missed practice, but did not seem overly concerned about the injury when he met with reporters Thursday.