Last year, Clyde Gates entered the NFL Scouting Combine and ran a 4.37 in the 40 yard dash, tied with the fastest time among receivers. He recorded that time even with a nagging groin injury. The Miami Dolphins went on to select him in the 4th round of the 2011 draft. Although there were high hopes for him among fans to have a breakout rookie season, Gates finished with just two catches for only 19 yards. Even though he is still the fastest receiver on the roster going into his second year, Dolphin fans should lower their expectations for Gates.
According to most of the local Miami media who closely cover the Dolphins, they claim Gates is struggling to make headway in OTAs. Not only is he not catching many balls or separating himself from the other WRs, but Gates is now playing behind Legedu Naanee. At this moment (and yes I do realize it’s just the start of OTAs), he does not appear to be an integral part of the Miami Offense.
Even coach Joe Philbin has made several comments about Gates during his post OTA interviews saying he is inexperienced and needs time to develop. When asked about Gates, Philbin explains that it’s not all about how fast you can run a forty yard dash, but having fast “game speed” and the ability to recognize coverage and make proper decisions on adjusting routes is more important. Although Philbin didn’t necessarily give out any kudos, he did seem to be optimistic about his potential and that Gates will improve over time with more repetition and experience.
Pretty much, Philbin is trying to imply that we need to be patient with Gates to allow him to develop and blossom into a productive receiver. After all, he never played in high school and did not officially play organized football until college, when he tried out and made the squad for Abilene Christian, which is a Division II school. As with most NFL receivers who played at small division schools, it typically takes three years to become a reliable receiver. In my opinion, I feel Gates is still raw and needs more time to fine tune his routes and recognize different coverage.
As much as we admire Gates’ speed and potential to be a “homerun” threat in this offense, we need to realize that won’t happen overnight. Because last year’s lockout deprived him of OTAs, a full training camp, and this year’s new implementation of a West Coast Offense, it is important for us to be patient.
Just like with any craft, it takes time to be successful. As fans, it’s very difficult to be patient, but we need to recognize he still has a lot to learn. Although his elite speed is mouth watering, we should lower our expectations for Gates this season. For those of you who anticipate 70 catches for 900 yards and six plus touchdowns out of Gates in 2012, you may want to revise those predictions. In the meantime, we can still show our support by wearing his self-made BIM (Believe In Miami) T-shirts.