Historic start of Jaylen Waddle’s career in the NFL

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle started his NFL career with historic productivity, both for the good and the bad.

In his first three games in the NFL, the former Alabama star caught 22 assists. In the Super Bowl era, only one player caught up to 22 assists in his first three NFL games – Anquan Boldin with 23 for the Arizona Cardinals in 2003.

Only six other players have received up to 20 receptions in the first three games of NFL career since 1970, including two other Alabama alumni – Amari Cooper with 20 for the Oakland Raiders in 2015 and Najee Harris with 20 for. the Pittsburgh Steelers this season.

On Sunday, Waddle caught 12 assists in Miami’s 31-28 overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders and Harris caught 14 assists in the Steelers’ 24-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Before Sunday, only two Super Bowl-era players had recorded 12 or more receptions in any of their first three NFL games – Mewelde Moore of the Minnesota Vikings in 2004 and Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants in 2018.

While Harris’ 14 receptions gained 102 yards, Waddle’s 12 catches were only good for 58. Waddle became the third player in NFL records dating back to 1950 to have at least 12 receptions and 58 yards or more. less in a game.

During his college career, Waddle averaged 18.9 yards on his 106 receptions for the Crimson Tide, and he left Alabama after receiving two of five touchdown passes of 90 or more yards in history. from school.

But for the Dolphins, Waddle’s 22 receptions produced 167 yards – an average of 7.6 yards per catch. And that includes Waddle’s three receptions in the first half of his first game, which gained 58 yards.

“Honestly, I feel like I can do more after the capture,” Waddle said. “I’ll try to do more after the capture. This is pretty much where I am. I’m not dissatisfied or anything like that, but I feel like I can do more. …

“I think it starts with running the game – starting the game and using your ability to try to make someone miss. This is honestly where it starts.

In Sunday’s game, Waddle received a reception that ended in a one-yard loss when he was tackled by Las Vegas cornerback Casey Hayward for safety. Split wide to the left with Miami on his 1-yard line in the first quarter, Waddle caught the pass in the end zone and was immediately tackled. According to profootballreference.com, safety is the first known in the NFL to come on a full pass that did not involve a fumble or a penalty.

“We just didn’t play the game well,” Waddle said. “Just an execution all around.”

Waddle said it never occurred to him to let football go out of bounds.

“I always want to catch the ball,” Waddle said. “To be honest, I wouldn’t be like – I wasn’t going to let it pass or something because it’s just, like, an instinct to catch the ball.”

Waddle said he had “room for improvement, a lot of improvements all around.”

The Dolphins selected Waddle with the sixth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, even though an ankle injury caused him to miss seven games last season in Alabama.

“He’s a young player,” Miami coach Brian Flores said on Wednesday. “Every time he comes out and sees a new defense, a different style of cornering that plays maybe a little bit of technique or maybe some press, we go into stacks and clusters and see how the teams play them. , sometimes they zone him, sometimes they dude, sometimes they do something 4v3 or 3v2, so I think it’s a learning experience for him every week. I think he’s – he works, he has the right routine, he does a lot of good things, he asks the right questions.

“I think over time, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll be fine. I think that’s the case not only for Jaylen but for a lot of our rookies and young players. I think developing in this league, every game, every practice is an experience. I think everyone is a little different – the number of reps, a schedule – but I think our guys are working in the right direction.

After winning their first game against the New England Patriots, Miami lost to the Buffalo Bills and Raiders and lost their starting quarterback. Former Alabama All-American Tua Tagovailoa injured his ribs in Game 2.

Jacoby Brissett has started Game 3 and will lead the Dolphins’ offense for at least the next two games with Tagovailoa on the injured reserve.

Miami will face the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at noon CDT at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Brissett has spent the previous four seasons with the Colts and was a starting quarterback for Indianapolis in 2017 and 2019.

“I think we just want to play good football throughout the 60 minutes, honestly,” Waddle said. “… I think we just want to play a full game and not leave it all out.”

Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @ AMarkG1.


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