Miami Dolphins’ Mike Gesicki hopes to continue his tight end evolution in 2020

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The Miami Dolphins are hoping Mike Gesicki picks up right where he left off in 2019.

That was in the back of the Gillette Stadium end zone, celebrating his final-minute, game-winning touchdown, which delivered the Dolphins’ first road win over the New England Patriots in a decade.

That score was a glorious ending for what turned into a productive and promising second season for the former Penn State standout the Dolphins selected in the second round of the 2018 draft.

Gesicki rebounded from a disappointing rookie season, one in which he struggled in every aspect of the game, particularly his blocking, and transformed into the Dolphins’ second most effective offensive weapon in 2019.

His evolution as a player was a testament to his talent level and the coaching staff’s commitment to helping him develop. It was also about finding the right role for this long-striding, former volleyball standout. The biggest question heading into 2020 is whether Gesicki will continue his evolution and become a focal point in the new offense when training camp opens in late July.

“I think it’s just part of how you kind of grow and develop in this league,” said Gesicki, who was used primary as a tight end working off the line of scrimmage, and often in the slot role last season. “I think I was able to learn a lot throughout my first season in the NFL and then kind of learn from those experiences, know where I needed to improve on my game, and be able to make the most of my opportunities moving on in my second year.

“So when those opportunities presented themselves, I was able to show what I was capable of doing,” said Gesicki, who caught 51 passes for 570 yards and scoring five touchdowns, all of which came in the season’s final six games. “I was able to make the most of our opportunities and help our team win a few games and kind of build toward the second half of last year.”

The biggest challenge Gesicki faces moving forward is that new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is installing a different offense. Gailey replaces Chad O’Shea, who was fired after one season.

According to Dolphins coach Brian Flores, he picked Gailey as his team’s play-caller because he runs a multi-faceted, balanced offense that features plenty of variations.

Gailey has had mixed outcomes when it comes use of tight ends in his many stops as a head coach with the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills, or as the coordinator for other offenses.

Scott Chandler finished second on the team in targets during the 2012 season with the Buffalo Bills, but that was the only season where a tight end was a focal point during Gailey’s three seasons as head coach with the Bills.

Tight ends weren’t a primary target in 2015 and 2016 when Gailey was the New York Jets play-caller, but that might have been because the team lacked talent at that position.

In 2008, Tony Gonzalez had the second most targets in the Chiefs’ offense and pulled down a team-leading 96 receptions for 1,058 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. But he was a first ballot Hall of Fame selection, so its justified to build an offense around a talent like that, especially since Gonzalez was in his prime during that season.

While Gailey was serving as Miami’s play-caller for Dave Wannstedt’s teams in 2000 and 2001, the tight end position wasn’t a major contributor to the offense for two 10-6 seasons. Jed Weaver and Hunter Goodwin were targeted 28 times and caught 16 passes for 215 yards and scored one touchdown in 2000.

And in 2001 Weaver and Goodwin were targeted 35 times, catching 22 passes for 242 yards and scoring two touchdowns.

This all hints that Gesicki, who caught 57% of the 89 passes thrown his way in 2019, and the rest of the Dolphins’ tight ends will have to earn their opportunities through productivity, gaining a mastery of Gailey’s offense and developing trust with their quarterback.

“I’m excited for another opportunity to go out and do what I love to do,” said Gesicki, was the NFL’s 12th most targeted (5.56 per game) tight end in 2019. “I’m sure every guy on the team is, too. I think regardless of whatever scheme you’re in, system you’re in, I think you earn the opportunities you’re presented with. Regardless of what the X’s and O’s are, what you do in practice on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, what you do in training camp, what you do before the games starts on Sunday, I think those are the opportunities you earn yourself.”


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