Rookies Braylon Sanders, Erik Ezukanma flash potential at Miami Dolphins training camp

·4 min read

MIAMI GARDENS — Braylon Sanders hauled in a long pass from Teddy Bridgewater in Friday's Dolphins training camp practice.

And nobody was surprised.

"I think he has great body control," wide receivers coach Wes Welker said. "He has great hands. He's got speed. You know, he's doing a lot of great things out there."

Earlier this week, Erik "Eazy-E" Ezukanma hauled in a long touchdown catch from Tua Tagovailoa in a Dolphins practice.

Again, no surprise.

“He’s big, physical," veteran receiver Cedrick Wilson said of Ezukanma. "Definitely going to be useful once we all get going.”

Miami has an established star in Tyreek Hill, a rising star in Jaylen Waddle and a young upstart veteran in Wilson at receiver.

The Dolphins' deep stable also includes 11-year veteran Mohamed Sanu, former undrafted standout Preston Williams, former third-rounder Lynn Bowden and core special teamer Trent Sherfield.

But early in camp, Sanders, an undrafted rookie from Ole Miss, and Ezukanma, the fourth-round rookie from Texas Tech, have been making splash plays.

Tua Tagovailoa likes Sanders, Ezukanma

"I’ve been very impressed with them," quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. "They have very good ball-tracking skills. They’re long and they’re fast. They’re fast for some pretty lanky guys."

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Tua agreed they began camp under the radar, but are no more.

"Those are definitely dark horses for our team, those two," Tua said.

Sanders, 6-foot-1, 194 pounds, led the SEC with 22.9 yards per reception last season. Sanders played receiver and quarterback in high school, where he was also a four-year starter for the basketball team.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Braylon Sanders (86) stretches on the field during training camp Aug. 1 at Baptist Health Training Complex.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Braylon Sanders (86) stretches on the field during training camp Aug. 1 at Baptist Health Training Complex.

Sanders seems like an ideal practice squad developmental player. One of the biggest reasons he went undrafted was a history of soft-tissue injuries in college, including hamstrings.

"It just added to the chip that’s on my shoulder now," he said. "I’ve just got to come out here and keep competing and making plays.”

Sanders said he chose to sign with Miami, in part, because Welker was the first NFL coach to reach out to him after the draft. Sanders said he also had a good conversation with Welker at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Lane Kiffin coached Sanders in SEC

Sanders was coached by former FAU coach Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss. He said he sees similarities between the personalities of Kiffin and Miami's first-year coach Mike McDaniel.

"Both guys like to have fun," Sanders said. "Got a personality to them."

Ezukanma, 6-foot-2, 206 pounds, also has a connection to Welker. The former Dolphins receiver, like Ezukanma, played at Texas Tech.

As a sophomore and junior, Ezukanma became the first Red Raider to lead the team in receiving yards in back-to-back years since former Dolphin Jakeem Grant in 2014-15.

At Texas Tech, Ezukanma won jump balls with physical play. He gained yards after catch on short passes. He lined up inside and out.

Dolphins wide receiver Erik Ezukanma (87) talks to reporters during rookie minicamp on May 13 at Baptist Health Training Complex in Miami Gardens.
Dolphins wide receiver Erik Ezukanma (87) talks to reporters during rookie minicamp on May 13 at Baptist Health Training Complex in Miami Gardens.

As a Red Raider, he gained yards on jet sweeps. And he even contributed as a Wildcat quarterback. His versatility should prove valuable.

"Being in coach (Sonny) Cumbie's offense, with Cumbie moving me around to the slot, outside and in the backfield, I feel like what this offense does, it helps me emphasize that part of my game as well," Ezukanma said.

Some scouts have compared Ezukanma's skill set with that of the veteran Sanu, who coincidentally signed with Miami this offseason.

Sanders says he tries to emulate the movements of the Raiders' Davante Adams.

Each of these players has a long way to go, Welker and McDaniel caution. But there is already a worthwhile cause to invest in their development.

"It's never easy as a rookie, kind of coming in, especially in this offense, and being able to make the plays those guys have been making early on in camp has been really cool to see," Welker said. "So we've just got to keep on staying on those guys. But they're doing everything right there. They're on top of their stuff.

Added Tagovailoa: "They’re very impressive."

Joe Schad is a journalist at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA Today Florida Network. You can reach him at jschad@pbpost.comHelp support our journalism. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Braylon Sanders and Erik Ezukanma shine as Miami Dolphins rookies