The Key to a Dolphins Playoff Run: Devante Parker

When Sam asked me to head up the blog portion of Perfectville, he didn’t do it with the expectation that I would give you generic takes that could be covered by anyone with access to a highlight reel. Regardless, I still find it necessary to get the obvious out of the way.

The primary keys for the Dolphins making a push to January football are:

  1. Keep the key guys healthy (Tannehill, the OL, Ajayi, Suh, Wake)
  2. Continue to run the football successfully
  3. Continue to rush the passer successfully

Sam said it, Chris said it, Kevin said it and I said it – the Perfectville and Phinalysis Podcast were in agreement that this passing game needed to evolve into something greater for this team to really take off.

It happened on Sunday in San Diego.

Ryan Tannehill played the best game of his Dolphins career not just in the box score (his 136.4 passer rating is the second highest single game mark of his career) but on the film. He delivered two crucial passes with pressure in his face a third that was a perfect dime for a touchdown and a clutch 18 yard scamper on 3rd and 11.

Devante Parker was the primary culprit of the expanded passing game. His 103 yards (with 40 more yards nullified on a bad holding call) were essentially the difference between a game manager title that Tannehill has been saddled with and a true difference maker.

Devante Parker had his best game of 2016 on Sunday in San Diego


Parker averaged nearly 20 yards per catch in his rookie season and was down to just 12.1 yards per catch so far this season. Going for 103 yards on five receptions, opening up the top end of the defense opposite Kenny Stills played a major role in the Dolphins fourth straight win.

Upon watching Devante Parker’s performance closely on film, you begin to realize some real strengths but an equal amount of weaknesses. There are routes Parker simply doesn’t run well. Anything that requires him to throttle down and make a 90 degree cut isn’t going to look sharp. He’s slow out of those breaks and doesn’t have the choppy feet to sell defenders otherwise.

He does, however, have an extremely smooth stride that allows him to chew up yards quickly once the ball is in his hands. We’ve been spoiled with Jarvis Landry and his start-stop ability, but Parker is capable of getting north and south quickly.

Parker competes best with smaller corners that he can beat physically at the point of the press. He won a slant route early in the game vs. San Diego and finished by selling a terrific stutter and go to the defensive back that was squatting on the stick and dig routes Parker ran all game.

His downfield element and red zone presence can expand this offense and will prevent teams from crowding the box and taking Jay Ajayi out of games.

The last thing you’ll see in the screen grabs below is the opportunities Parker affords this offense close to the goal line. We saw the Dolphins commit two fouls in the end zone on Sunday and, in a flag happy league, why not test a smaller defensive back’s ability to defend a pass without contacting our 6 foot 3 sophomore receiver? Parker’s ability to catch the ball in traffic in a one-on-one fade route means you can score or get a cheap first and goal at the one yard line.

In the image below, Parker absorbs the press by extending his arms and taking the DB where he wants to go.


And here he has completely won the route by putting the DB in trail position before Tannehill delivers a strike for 14 yards.


Below, Parker is faced with press coverage again. This time he doesn’t get his arms on the defender.


Tannehill has already decided Parker is not open because it took him too long to get around the press and the cover 2 boxes Parker in. This is a tough spot, but this lack of separation is common with Parker.


On a route more suited for Parker, he catches this drag route in space with room to operate. Note that he receives the ball at the 38 yard line.


He turned it up so quickly that the defender standing on the “4” in 40 and the defender coming down the 45 yard line have barely moved by the time Parker is two yards up field.


He is finally tripped up and brought down at the 47 for a first down – 10 yards from where he caught the pass.


Here’s another example of his inability to separate on an out route. You see Tannehill is releasing the ball at the top of the route as Parker makes his break.


He’s open, and this is a ball that should be completed. But because Parker is slow out of his break, he can’t extend for the catch. Before you blame Tannehill, the location on this pass is exactly where it needs to be.


This is the jump ball that was negated on a penalty. Parker has boxed out his man as the ball falls from the heavens.


He high points it and brings it in with a huge catch in traffic. These are the situations where he can be an elite level player.


And after dogging on him for a lack of acceleration out of breaks, this stutter and go is a thing of beauty. As Parker throttles down, the defensive back is driving on the route he thinks is going underneath.


I highlighted Tannehill in yellow here because I want to brag about his anticipation. The ball is already out and Parker has just now beaten his man. Parker’s acceleration in a straight line is impressive as he outruns the DB en route to a big play.


Below is the fade where Parker was mugged by the defensive back. That size advantage means the defensive back needs to get handsy. And he did. And he got away with it.


I have no questions that Adam Gase will identify these things and center Devante Parker’s routes away his strengths just as he has with every other player on the team. It’s difficult to imagine the Dolphins to lose many games when Parker can go over the century mark with the way this defense and running game are clicking.

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Fins up!


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