Miami Dolphins wide receiver River Cracraft plans on keeping the football from his first career regular-season touchdown, which sparked the team’s fourth-quarter comeback in Baltimore, right next to his bed.
“Something I’ll hold onto forever,” Cracraft said of the 2-yard touchdown reception. “Definitely a highlight. Would like to keep those coming. It’s a starting point.”
If Cracraft is going to keep those coming with the Dolphins, the team may soon have to make a decision on signing him to the active roster full-time.
Cracraft has been elevated twice in two weeks from the practice squad. NFL rules in 2022 allow a team to bring a practice-squad player up three times. If they want to promote the same player again, they have to sign him to the active roster. Should the team then want to send him back to the practice squad, it would have to release him first, making him eligible to be claimed by other clubs.
“You make these decisions every week for what’s the best thing for the football team that week in the given matchups,” coach Mike McDaniel said on Friday. “If we get to that point where he’s lost all that eligibility, then we have to cross that bridge.
“I don’t get ahead of myself because that involves his play. That also involves other people’s play, so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Beyond his ability, Cracraft, the 6-foot, 198-pound slot receiver out of Washington State, is a desirable player to have available on game days because of his familiarity with McDaniel and wide receivers coach Wes Welker over the past two seasons in San Francisco. He’s been up and down from the practice squad with the 49ers and through three prior seasons with the Denver Broncos.
“I like to pride myself as someone who’s reliable,” he said. “I like to bring that to the table, and we’ll see what happens going forward.”
Welker sees a work ethic in Cracraft he can appreciate as a fellow undrafted receiver — one who made five Pro Bowls and is a Hall of Fame nominee.
“On his off days,” Welker said, “he’s always up here, always doing extra after practice, even during the spring and all those different things. It all adds up.”
While Cracraft has been up, rookie fourth-round pick Erik Ezukanma, a training camp and preseason standout, has been a healthy inactive the first two games.
“I think he’s responded really well,” said Welker, adding the Dolphins feel they have quality players ahead of him at the position. “He’ll get there. He just needs to continue to put in the work and understand that it is a process and when he’s ready, we’ll know he’s ready.”
Phillips has ‘done some good things’
Dolphins second-year outside linebacker Jaelan Phillips has been off to a slow start statistically. He only has two tackles through two games, plus a key fumble recovery late against the New England Patriots.
While he hasn’t been around the ball much between that win and last Sunday in Baltimore, advanced metrics still say he’s playing well. ESPN has him at a 31 percent pass-rush win rate, which is higher through two games than the 28-percent figure the Browns’ Myles Garrett led the league with last year. Pro Football Focus had Phillips among Miami’s highest-graded defenders against the Ravens.
“You never want to chase numbers and chase stats,” Phillips said. “It’s all about just the effort and focusing on honing your craft. I’m just going to continue to try to improve and bring some pressure.”
If Phillips simply continues to win his matchups against his blockers, it should result in greater activity statistically, including the pressures, quarterback hits and sacks he’s known for after a franchise rookie record 8 ½ sacks in 2021.
“He’s playing within this scheme, and I think it can get better,” Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer said. “He’s done some good things. I think that’s like everybody. I mean, we’re Week 2 in the season. To sit here and say, ‘Hey, this is it. This is what it is. This is not this. This is good.’ I mean, I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s an evolving thing that we’re all trying to get better. I think that he has done some good things. And I think you’ll continue to [see him] do some good things, and I think he’ll get better at some things.”
Crossman explains return TD
Dolphins special teams coordinator Danny Crossman was expectedly displeased with his unit allowing a Devin Duvernay return touchdown on the opening kickoff against the Ravens last Sunday.
“There’s fit. Think of it as a run play — there’s guys that have certain fits and certain responsibilities,” Crossman said. “Against a dynamic return guy, if everybody’s not where they’re supposed to be, there’s going to be an issue. And then we had compounded that with a second issue of a secondary player. So, it was a very poor play. I take the blame for it.”
Although Crossman was heard vociferously instructing his unit during the media viewing portion of Wednesday’s practice, he says nothing changes with the way he approaches the kick and punt coverage teams.
“Whether it’s a good play or bad play, it’s a play and you’ve got to move on,” he said. “As long as you’re coaching and teaching the same things and you don’t go and try and change things, you’re going to be fine. We’ve been, in my opinion, fairly successful at what we’ve been doing and how we cover kicks.”
Crossman also clarified McDaniel’s stat from earlier in the week, that he actually hadn’t previously given up an opening kickoff touchdown return — not any kick return overall.
“I’ve given up a couple others, sadly,” Crossman said. “It’s been a while, though.”