Miami Dolphins tight ends coach Jon Embree was candid when addressing why Durham Smythe has outsnapped Mike Gesicki — and rather significantly — in three of the team’s first four games.
“It’s just more of trying to get guys to fit their skill sets,” said Embree, who doubles as Miami’s assistant head coach, on Thursday. “We’re not going to ask Mike to block power. When we’re doing some of the heavy running stuff, that’s obviously going to be Durham.”
For much of the offseason and through training camp, it was believed Gesicki’s deficiencies in the run-blocking aspects of the tight end position were going to hinder his production and playing time in new coach Mike McDaniel’s wide-zone run-blocking scheme. Despite it, Gesicki was given a $10.9 million franchise tag this offseason.
In the games against the Patriots, Bills and Bengals, Gesicki played 25, 17 and 28 snaps, respectively, accounting for offensive playtime percentages in the lower 40s in each. In those same three games, Smythe was on the field for 38, 32 and 40 offensive snaps, all more than 60 percent of offensive plays.
“It’s just more of a flow of what we’re trying to get accomplished or what’s going on, as far as scheme for that week,” said Embree. “Durham gives us a little more in the run game, and we want to be a run-first team.”
The one game where Gesicki, known as the greater pass-catching threat, outsnapped Smythe was in Baltimore on Sept. 18. Gesicki had 44 offensive plays to Smythe’s 35 as Miami mostly played from behind against the Ravens in the 21-point comeback to win, 42-38.
Gesicki, who set career highs with 73 receptions for 780 yards in 2021, only has eight catches for 71 yards on 10 targets through the Dolphins’ first four games.
“I feel like we’re getting what we need out of him and what he’s capable of,” said Embree. “Some of it is coverage-dictated.”
Added offensive coordinator Frank Smith: “Production on the ball at that position obviously gets highlighted a lot, but the difference between many tight ends is, those guys that have that ability to block, they’re really invaluable.”
Embree pointed to a 3 a.m. Tuesday text he received from his tight end at his last coaching stop in San Francisco, George Kittle, one of the NFL’s best. It was a video of Kittle laying out a Rams defensive back on a block in the Monday night victory.
“That’s what we want. That mentality here,” Embree said. “It’s not about how many passes did I catch.
“We’re trying to win a Super Bowl. We’re not trying to win the fantasy league title, and we’re not trying to lift one guy up over another person. We’re going to take what the defense gives us, and we’re going to do it within the concept of our scheme.”
Embree also pointed to Miami running more “21 personnel,” two backs with one tight end, with fullback Alec Ingold on the team and getting involved. The Dolphins were one of the more heavy “12 personnel” — or one running back and two tight ends — teams in previous seasons.
The Dolphins remained without quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (concussion), cornerbacks Xavien Howard (groins) and Keion Crossen (glute/shoulder), offensive linemen Terron Armstead (toe) and Robert Jones (back) and tight end Cethan Carter (concussion).
Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (groin), who was seen at Wednesday practice but listed on the injury report as a non-participant, was seen again on Thursday and, this time, partaking in drills. His upper right thigh was wrapped. Outside linebacker Melvin Ingram returned from a veteran rest day on Wednesday.
Safety Brandon Jones (chest) was wearing a red, non-contact jersey at Thursday’s session after he was also limited on Wednesday. Wide receiver River Cracraft was wearing a compression sleeve on his left leg.