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DeVante Parker looking for ‘big season’

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San Francisco 49ers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker has struggled with injuries during his first two years, including a foot issue his rookie year and a hamstring problem last year. It has limited the 2015 first-round pick to just 82 receptions, 1,238 yards, and seven touchdowns in his first two campaigns since joining the league.

In comparison, Jarvis Landry, Miami’s second-round pick in 2014, recorded 84 receptions, 758 yards, and five touchdowns as a rookie.

Needless to say, Parker’s play has been disappointing for the fans, team, and Parker himself. Now, Parker seems to be healthy and is ready to live up to his potential this season. “I’m tired of being hurt and not being healthy a full season,” Parker told the Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser at the start of Fins Weekend on Friday. “Expecting a big season this year.”

Fins Weekend is an annual fundraising event hosted by the Dolphins which includes golf and fishing tournaments.

“I’m just really focused on leg workouts,” Parker continued. “I still do upper body, but I want to do legs to get my hamstrings right for this season… It’s a bigger workload on the legs than I’ve had in the past.”

Pro Football Focus took a look at Parker on Friday after he made his comments to Lieser. They stated, “Parker ranked 26th out of 115 qualified receivers in 2016 with a 79.6 overall grade. His 73.7 overall grade as a rookie in 2015 ranked 51st out of 121 qualified receivers.”

They added, “Parker achieved most of his success at the short-to-intermediate level in 2016 as 42 of his 88 targets came on either slants, hitches, ins or outs with an average depth of target of 8.3 yards. On those routes he caught 76.2 percent of his targets for 314 yards and a touchdown. Dolphins quarterbacks had a 104.7 passer rating when targeting Parker on those four routes, compared to a 78.9 passer rating on all other routes.”

Parker, when healthy, has proven to be an effective second option in the team’s passing offense, behind Landry. The Dolphins, however, have expected Parker to be more than just a second option in the offense. The potential for Parker to be an elite, number-one wide receiver is there, but the injuries - and, according to head coach Adam Gase, some health and workout habits - have kept the former 14th overall pick from reaching that potential. Will 2017 prove to be the breakout season Parker needs?

“We need him to be a big play, No. 1 receiver,” Miami offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said of Parker earlier this month. “That’s what he has the potential to be. That’s what he has to be, and to play at a high level week after week after week after week in a consistent manner. It’s not easy to do, but he has the skills to do it, which not many guys do have.”

Christensen continued, saying, “Now he’s applying himself. He has always worked, but he struggled with that hamstring. He has gotten himself healthy. I really think that maybe lifestyle – for lack of a better term – but just his routine is better. Sometimes those young guys, as they come into this thing, it takes them a while to fall into the routine of what it takes to put your body in position, in shape, sleep – all the above – eating, practicing, all those things to be able to make it through a 16-game season, especially for a receiver, where you just are running so much. There’s so much running involved in the thing. I think probably all those things have gotten better for him. I think they’ll all combine to him having a great year this year. I really think he’ll have a great, big year – a gigantic year for us.”

Miami is expecting a gigantic year for Parker and Parker is likewise expecting a big year from himself. The Dolphins have built their offense to be full of weapon, including Parker and Landry, along with wide receiver Kenny Stills, running back Jay Ajayi, and tight ends Julius Thomas and Anthony Fasano. The Dolphins are also looking to get second-year receivers Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant more involved in the offense, giving the team even more explosiveness as they head into 2017.

There are a lot of things that need to happen this year for the Dolphins, with Parker emerging as the receiver Miami thought they were getting when they drafted him - and the receiver Parker thinks he should be - being a major part.