The Miami Dolphins’ wide receivers drew a lot of attention at the start of the 2022 NFL season due to impressive performances from Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. But an interesting subplot on the position has involved a rookie draft pick and a former college free agent.
Offseason acquisition River Cracraft played a role in Sunday’s 42-38 comeback win over the Baltimore Ravens with a 2-yard touchdown catch that set the Dolphins’ fourth quarter scoring at 28 points.
Being first in the game in place of rookie fourth-round pick Erik Ezukanma was notable. And that it was the second time in two games was even more remarkable.
Cracraft didn’t make the Dolphins’ original 53-man roster when the Dolphins decided to keep five wide receivers on the roster, with Ezukanma joining Hill Waddle, Trent Sherfield and Cedrick Wilson Jr., but he was eliminated against both of them Practice team lifted the New England Patriots and the Ravens.
Essentially, the Dolphins chose to like Cracraft more at this point, although it was Ezukanma they wanted to keep as the fifth wide receiver.
WHY ERIK EZUKANMA WAS INACTIVE
Wide Receivers coach Wes Welker shed light on the decision to inactive Ezukanma for each of the first two games.
“It’s very difficult for rookie receivers in the league,” Welker said on Thursday. “And we have a very talented room with a group of guys who are very, very detailed. At the end of the day, when you’re talking about the fourth, fifth, sixth receiver in your roster, you have to be in the game in all three positions. You don’t know when someone is down, you don’t know when someone gets tired, you don’t know when someone needs an IV in the third quarter. You don’t know all these different things and you’re not able to plug in guys and play without losing a beat, not sitting there and being nervous as a coach or anything else.
“It’s a huge learning curve to be able to learn all these different positions week in and week out. It’s not the same games every week as it is at Texas Tech. There are no hand signals on the sidelines. These are long calls. It’s a process. He’s preparing like he’s going to play and he needs to keep doing that. I think over time we’ll know what a talent he is. But we have to hold everyone accountable when it comes to being out there on the field. Me and our entire staff can’t have that knot in my stomach when he’s out there wondering, ‘Will he do the right thing? Is he in the right place? Do we need to take some time off? All of these things are so critical. ” that he begins to understand.
“It’s not just about being more talented. Everyone is talented. But it’s about the details and being on point with every single game you play out there because an MA (missed task) or anything out there can mean the difference between winning and losing and right now we are just not ready to do that. He will make it. He just needs to keep working at it and understanding it’s a process and when he’s ready we’ll know he’s ready. We love his skills. We love the way he goes about his business. But it takes time. I’ve been through it with a lot of beginners who had to play too early and it’s hard. It’s really tough. It’s tough for a coach. It’s tough for a staff. It’s tough for the player. And right now we don’t have to do that. So we won’t do that until we feel confident that he’s capable of executing what we need him to.”
Without question, Ezukanma has fascinating abilities and his time will come.
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CRAFTS FOR THE DOLPHINS COMES THROUGH
In the meantime, the Dolphins clearly have faith in Cracraft – although they’ll have to make a decision with him pretty soon.
Based on the new 2022 Practice Squad rules, any player can be promoted up to three times in the regular season for a regular-season game, meaning the Dolphins only have Cracraft once more unless they decide to promote him to the active take on cadres.
Cracraft joined the Dolphins after appearing in 24 games for the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers in the last four seasons, but his touchdown against Baltimore was the first of his NFL career.
“It’s so cool for River,” Welker said. “I was really proud of him and the work he did. It was fun preseason, that was his first touchdown in six years. And to have a touchdown like that at a critical moment in a game this big and the win we had was such a cool moment for him. I’m just really happy for him and the work he’s put in. Finally getting this opportunity was such a cool thing just to see how much work he has put in over the past few years and how valuable he has been to our team.
“I think it’s just to do with his work ethic and how much time he has – you can tell he’s thinking about football all the time. He’s always up here on his days off, always doing extra, after practice, even in the spring and all these different things. It all adds up. To me it’s just the work he put in and he listens and he’s on time. He just does everything right, just like you want a professional athlete to do. So I’m really, really happy for him and I hope he continues on that path and I know he will.”
For Cracraft, it’s all about doing what’s asked of him when it’s asked of him and hoping for more and more opportunities.
“I take pride in my responsibilities and I know my responsibilities and all of that,” Cracraft said, “and for them to give back the confidence and stand me up means a lot to me and makes me feel like I’m doing the right stuff right now and I have to.” just keep stacking the days.
“It’s just a starting point. I just have to take it week after week, day after day and hopefully continue to be up and helping the team in whatever role.”