Dolphins rookie receiver Erik Ezukanma might finally make his regular-season debut Sunday against Buffalo if Cedrick Wilson Jr.’s painful rib injury makes him unavailable.
The Dolphins’ talent at wide receiver — and coach Mike McDaniel’s faith in former 49ers receivers Trent Sherfield and River Cracraft — aren’t the only reasons Ezukanma hasn’t been active the first two weeks.
Ezukanma said last Friday that he has been asked to learn a new position. After playing the Z receiver position in training camp and preseason, he said that in recent weeks, he also has been asked to learn the F receiver position.
“Cedrick is the starting F and he doesn’t have a main backup,” Ezukanma said. “F is one of the hardest positions to learn. The F is the adjuster who moves inside or outside. I was playing [only] Z in preseason.”
Ezukanma said not playing — or even being active — has been “a bit frustrating. [Before the Patriots opener]I was really down on myself.”
But he also appreciates the coaching staff’s thinking, because it takes time to learn a new position.
“I understand it,” he said. “I have to prove I can learn the playbook. There’s a learning curve.”
Ezukanma said he continues to get work at the Z receiver position, too. He knows that understanding how to play both Z and F will increase his versatility and value to the team.
McDaniel said he told Ezukanma last Monday that while he was inactive, he should “take in the environment.. and be extra detailed on your game plan. He gives the rest of his team confidence he can own game plans week in and week out, from multiple positions, he won’t have that problem anymore, which he understood.”
Wilson’s status for Sunday is very much in question; McDaniel said Wilson’s ribs hurt “pretty bad” but aren’t broken.
In addition to the heavy workload for elite receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, McDaniel has given offensive snaps to Wilson, Sherfield and Cracraft, who caught his first NFL touchdown Sunday, the first of Tua Tagovailoa’s four fourth-quarter TD passes.
The Dolphins soon will face a decision whether to promote Cracraft from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.
NFL teams can “elevate” practice squad players three times during a season — up from two a year ago — and Cracraft, who has value as a receiver and on special teams, already has been elevated twice.
Ezukanma was 12th in the NFL in preseason receiving yards with 156, on 10 receptions.
Receivers coach Wes Welker gave a glowing recommendation to general manager Chris Grier after watching Ezukanma work out privately for the Dolphins in Lubbock, Texas, before the draft.
“I knew coming from the offense he was coming from, where there was a lot of signals, a lot of one-word plays, lining up in the same spot over and over again, there’s a big learning curve that goes on with that, Welker said last month. “He has hit it in stride and has really attacked this offense and has understood how important it is. Because he’s got the physical ability. He’s got the talent and all those things.”
TIGHT END WORKOUTS
The Dolphins — who are missing two tight ends due to injury — worked out four tight ends this week: Darrell Daniels, Ryan Izzo, James O’Shaughnessy and Deon Yelder.
Daniels has appeared in 61 games, starting 18, and has 13 catches for 132 yards. He started four games for Arizona last season.
Izzo has played in 19 games and started 16 and has 19 catches for 316 yards. He appeared in only one game last season (for Tennessee); he was released by Carolina in August.
O’Shaunghenessy has appeared in 80 NFL games and started 40, including six for the Jaguars last season, and has 112 career receptions for 1108 yards.
Yelder has played in 31 games and started two and has 11 career catches for 86 yards.
The Dolphins had only three healthy tight ends available on Sunday: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe and Tanner Conner.
Hunter Long sustained an ankle injury last week — it’s unclear if it happened in practice — and missed Sunday’s game. Cethan Carter remains in concussion protocol after an injury sustained in the Patriots game.
The Dolphins have no tight ends on their practice squad.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Betonline has improved the Dolphins odds’ to win the Super Bowl from 40-to-1 (less than two weeks ago) to 25-to-1 after Sunday’s win. Only 10 teams have shorter odds. Miami is tied with Denver for 11th.
The teams with shorter odds: Buffalo, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Green Bay, the Chargers, Rams, San Francisco, Baltimore and Minnesota.
▪ McDaniel and Jimmy Johnson are the only Dolphins coaches to start their careers here 2-0. Johnson did it in 1996.
▪ The Dolphins’ 547 total yards Sunday were fifth most in franchise history. The team record: 584 in 1988 against the Jets.
▪ Tagovailoa’s 469 passing yards Sunday were fourth most in Dolphins history, behind three games by Dan Marino: 521 against the Jets in 1988, 473 against the Patriots in 1994 and 470 against the Rams in 1984.
Tagovailoa’s 36 completions were third most in Dolphins history, behind two Marino games: 39 in 1986 against Buffalo and 38 in 1997 against the Patriots.
▪ Not only were Miami’s 28 points in the fourth quarter the most in a fourth quarter in Dolphins history, but that’s tied for the most points scored by the Dolphins in any quarter in team history. Miami scored 28 points in the second quarter on Dec. 17, 1967, against the Boston Patriots.
This story was originally published September 20, 2022 12:22 PM.