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The Miami Dolphins play the St. Louis Rams this weekend in Miami. Before last week's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Dolphins signed wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, but listed him as inactive against Cincinnati. This week, it appears the veteran wide out could make his Miami debut.
The Miami Dolphins have the number one receiver in the NFL in receiving yards. They also have the nineteenth wide receiver in passing yards. However, they still need help if the Miami offense is going to continue to develop this season, and if the Dolphins are going to put together a string of wins.
Brian Hartline, leading the NFL with 514 yards, and Davone Bess, 346 yards, are ranked 14th and 11th, respectively, by Pro Football Focus this season. The two of them, in what was widely declared the "worst wide receiver corps" in the league prior to the start of the season, are giving rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill a chance to move the ball through the air, and he has been effective at doing just that.
However, after those two, the Miami wide receivers have been non-existent this year. Veteran Legedu Naanee was supposed to be the top guy this season for the Dolphins, at least based on his training camp play. But, after four games, in which Naanee caught one ball, then immediately fumbled it by juking the ball out of his own arms, the team realized something had to change.
Enter free agent Jabar Gaffney. Gaffney had been cut by the New England Patriots during the preseason, and had worked out with the Dolphins earlier this season. However, he was still recovering from a leg injury and the Dolphins could not sign him with the injury lingering.
Between the Dolphins' loss to the Arizona Cardinals and last week's win over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Dolphins signed Gaffney and released Naanee. The team would declare Gaffney inactive against the Bengals, giving the veteran more time to learn the Miami playbook and terminology, as well as start building chemistry with Tannehill.
"If we are not on the same page, it just messes things up," Gaffney said during his media availability yesterday. "Last week, I knew some stuff but I wasn't all the way ready to go. Coach is going to make the call again [this week], and I'm doing everything in my power to get ready to go this week. I want to go out there with my teammates. I'm feeling things out, starting to get the hang of it."
The Dolphins need a third wide receiver to step up, and they need him to step up now. Gaffney, who played in all 16 games, starting 15, with the Washington Redskins last season, could be that guy. He caught 68 passes for 947 yards last year, with five touchdowns, all career highs.
Gaffney told the media that, following his visit earlier this year with the Dolphins, he knew this was the place he wanted to be. He explained that he has followed the team closely, knowing he would get a chance to come back to the team when he was healthy.
"They indicated to me that there was a great chance I would be coming back," Gaffney explained "I wasn't all the way healthy then."
The Dolphins play the St. Louis Rams this Sunday in Miami, and could be looking to get Gaffney on the field for the first time.
"He's making progress," Miami head coach Joe Philbin said during his Thursday press conference. "He's making progress, yeah. Part of its getting through the terminology barrier. Part of its learning the concepts themselves. Football's football. It's not all that much different, but still there's a little bit. He's working hard at it, staying after practice. We'll see how he progresses."
When asked if it is hard to throw Gaffney into the wide receiver mix due to the short time the wide out has been with the team, Philbin answered, "It can be, yeah. It can be a little bit more of a challenge if they haven't been around much. I think he's making good progress."
That progress is exactly what the team needs from Gaffney. Hopefully he will be ready to get on the field and add another weapon to Tannehill's arsenal.