When Dolphins knew they had something special with Waddle and why a Miami coach laughs now

David Santiago
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  • Jaylen Waddle
    Jaylen Waddle

Dolphins cornerbacks coach Charles Burks, when he’s not counseling his players during a game, will look up, see Jaylen Waddle create separation from a cornerback and make a catch. And he will see it happen again. And then he will quietly chuckle.

“I get the luxury of seeing it every day and at times I laugh on the sidelines because I know how hard it is to cover that guy,” Burks said. “Sometimes it is a bit amusing because I feel sorry for the opposing defenses, but at the same time he’s on my team and I feel glad for that.”

Waddle is putting together one of the best reasons by a rookie in recent Dolphins history. Waddle’s 77 receptions are second most by a rookie in Dolphins history — seven behind Jarvis Landry’s record in 2014 — and second most by any NFL player in his first 12 career games.

Odell Beckham Jr. had 91 for the Giants in 2014.

So what makes Waddle a special talent?

“Jaylen Waddle has a unique ability to put together his speed and route running at the same time,” Burks said. “Some guys are not as explosive in their route runnings. He’s extremely explosive in his routes in and out of his cuts, and he has good hands.”

Waddle now ranks fifth in the NFL in receptions (77) and leads all NFL rookies in the category. His 759 receiving yards are 14th in the NFL this year and second among rookies. His 349 yards after catch are ninth among all players.

Wide receivers coach Josh Grizzard said in terms of getting open on short to intermediate routes, he’s “better than average for sure on attacking angles and trying to create separation.”

Grizzard was asked the moment he knew “we have something here” with Waddle.

He cited a May practice at the team’s Davie bubble, before the Dolphins moved to their new training site in Miami Gardens.

Waddle caught a short pass “and he was rolling,” Grizzard said. “He caught it and basically ran away from everyone. The lighting kind of feels like you’re in outer space. He caught it and rolled and you’re like, it’s a different speed. That’s the first one that stood out.”

On his 57-yard catch-and-run on Sunday, he hit a top speed of 21.8 mph, which tied for the fifth highest recorded time in a game this season, per Nex Gen Stats.

“The speed is definitely real,” Grizzard said.

But Waddle has said he wants to be known as more than a speedster.

“They don’t want to be pigeonholed into ‘I just do this,’” Grizzard said. “The more you can do, the more it helps us because we can put you in different positions.”

Where is he mature beyond his years?

“It’s more of the intangible side of it, being able to take on bigger roles or the competitive nature or being able to listen to coach or coaching from the other players, where he’s open to criticism,” Grizzard said. “He doesn’t take it personally. If I screwed this up, I can improve on it or correct it the next week.”


Running back Malcolm Brown, who has missed four games with a quadriceps injury, was running on the field on a team off day Tuesday, suggesting he’s getting closer to returning.

Center Michael Deiter also was on the field, and the Dolphins are hopeful he can play Sunday after missing eight games with a foot injury.

The Dolphins have one open spot on their 53-man roster.

Tua Tagovailoa’s 70.5 completion percentage is second in the NFL (behind Kyler Murray) and would be the best in Dolphins history.

Tagovailoa completed all 19 of his quick passes (less than 2.5 seconds) against Carolina — the most completions without an incompletion on quick passes since Next Gen Stats began monitoring this in 2016.

Dolphins defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah has batted away passes in seven consecutive games, the NFL’s longest streak in at least 20 years.

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