DAVIE, Fla. – On Team Makeover, no one arrives more made over in April than tight end Mike Gesicki. He discarded his Dolphins rookie No. 86 for his college No. 88.
“Got me here,” he said. “Got to go with it.”
He’s also weighs in at 253 pounds, more than 10 pounds above his rookie playing weight, without feeling any loss of speed.
“That’s the idea,” he said.
Here’s the larger idea: The Dolphins need a new and improved game from Gesicki – from all the Gesickis on this sagging roster, really. All the discussion and most of the outside hope for upgrades centers on next week’s draft for obvious reasons.
But the other significant way to advance the talent is by improving those still here. Can former No. 1 pick DeVante Parker, the Ryan Tannehill of receivers, finally take the proverbial next step in his fifth season?
Will Charles Harris show some signs of a first-round defensive end with a new staff with a new system?
Do young defenders such as linebacker Raekwon McMillan and cornerback Cordrea Tankersley apply with more consistency the talent they’ve flashed at various times?
Then there’s Gesicki. The Dolphins have five tight ends on the roster right now in the hopes they have enough. One is former New England Patriots veteran Dwayne Allen, who is more blocker than receiver and has accompanied coach Brian Flores from Foxborough to lead a young group.
Gesicki is the only player the Dolphins invested something substantial for in the terms of a second-round pick. His athleticism was off the charts, too. It still is, too.
His 22 catches for 220 yards and no touchdowns show something was missing, though. Some physicality. Some escape-off-the-line muscle. Something.
Gesicki knows. Work and want-to isn’t an issue. This is the guy who put a greaseboard in his hotel room last training camp to go over plays. He watched video of all his plays in the offseason.
“Saw a lot of good, a lot of bad,” he said. “A lot of stuff to improve on, and a lot I can take in and bring into my game this year. That was expected. Twenty-two years old, playing my first season in the NFL, learning on the fly, doing some thing I haven’t been asked to do …
“I’m someone who can be my biggest critic. I was able to go back and learn from some of the things.”
He sounds different and looks different. Will that translate into a better second season?
“I think I’ve put myself in a positon to not only be effective in the passing game, but also in the running game,” he said. “I feel like I’m in much better shape than I was at this time last year. I think that’s when I’ll be at my best, when I play fast.
“I think last year, especially when I got here, the heat took me by surprise and I wasn’t in great conditioning shape. My thing is I need to go run fast and run by people and make plays in the passing game. So, it took a while to get into that shape to get there. I feel pretty good.”
Asked what he’s working on, he said blocking (“focus on technique”), and “refine my route-running and that kind of stuff. Honestly, I’ll give you the same answer for the next 25 years, if you ask me. That’s what it is.”
There are role models across the Dolphins practice field for the Gesickis on this roster. Laremy Tunsil is considered a lock-down left tackle now. But there were serious doubts if he’d ever get here until the second half of his second season.
Xavien Howard wasn’t on track to be a top cornerback due in good part to health issues until the end of his second season. Entering his fourth year, he’s in line for a big payday.
The added opportunity for the Gesickis is roster tear-down this offseason means they’ll get every chance to show something. General Manager Chris Grier liked these players enough to draft them, too.
Flores was asked about Gesicki, but his words could apply to a half-dozen, highly drafted players whose careers are at a crossroads.
“We see what everyone else sees,” Flores said. “He has size, he has speed, he can catch the ball. There’s things that everyone can work on. He’s working on those things and he’s done a good job these last couple of days.”
Next week, the Dolphins get an injection of hope with the draft. The new talent will be a headline, just as Gesicki was last spring. What the Dolphins need is a few of Gesickis on the roster to become good stories again.
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