Dolphins WR DeVante Parker looks strong as 2018 debut nears

Regardless of whether wide receiver DeVante Parker is living up to his draft status, his return for the Dolphins this weekend will be a boost to the offense.

Injuries have been a frustration with Parker over his first three seasons, missing three games in 2017 and this year’s season opener, but it’s been more than just keeping him out of the lineup. He’s often played despite not being 100 percent, but he hasn’t always been able to power through the pain in those situations.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase doesn’t think that will be the case Sunday against the Jets, when Parker will likely play with his right hand heavily taped after missing a month due to a broken middle finger. He’s officially listed as questionable, but all indications are that he will be good to go.

Unlike the ankle and hamstring issues that have limited his explosiveness, this injury shouldn’t be an impediment mentally.

“I’m not worried about it with this injury,” Gase said. “I feel good about where he’s at right now. He’s strong. The way they have his hand taped up, he’s able to have movement and he’s able to snag the ball. This is not a pain thing for him at this point. It was more of a stability thing.

“I think he’s in a good place. I mean, he proved to me two years ago when he played with his back kinda jacked up against Baltimore that he’s tough. He can handle the pain. It is hard sometimes when you’re not 100 percent, when you’re a big guy that goes to get the ball, how physical can you play? That’s the toughest thing to figure out?”

Parker is coming off a letdown season of 57 catches, 670 yards and one touchdown despite being targeted a career-high 96 times. The end of the year was particularly bad. He had back-to-back games of one catch for five yards and broke 70 yards once over the final eight games.

He came into this season with the Dolphins intent on eliminating the lofty expectations and helping him concentrate simply on playing well in practice every day, and he was mostly under the radar when he broke his finger a month ago.

That shelved him for the remainder of the preseason, and Parker said there was no chance of him being able to play through it in last week’s opener. Jakeem Grant got a bigger role in his place and caught five passes for 38 yards in Miami’s 27-20 win over Tennessee.

Coming into this week, the training staff determined his finger had healed enough to go through practice and resume catching passes. Parker said Thursday the tape hasn’t affected his ability to catch and he was confident about returning. Gase feels similarly, especially after Parker was a full participant in practice the last two days.

“He did a good job with what we asked him to do,” Gase said. “We got him some live team reps. He’s running well, he’s catching the ball well. It seems like he’s not having any issues catching the ball.”

[Lieser: Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake is growing up when team needs him most]

[Humbling restart for WR Leonte Carroo, who still wants to prove the Dolphins right for drafting him]

[Lieser: Dolphins coach Adam Gase and the fine line between confidence and delusion]

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