Jay Cutler starting for Dolphins is great news for DeVante Parker

Sporting News

Move over, Ryan Tannehill to Jarvis Landry. Here comes Jay Cutler to DeVante Parker.

It was no surprise when Cutler made his debut as the Dolphins' starting quarterback in Thursday night's preseason game against the Ravens that he immediately locked into one wide receiver. It should be less of a surprise it was Parker and not Landry.

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In just two series vs. Baltimore's defense, it was pretty evident Parker is Cutler's go-to guy, just as Landry was Tannehill's. Cutler threw eight times on 14 plays, and four went in Parker's direction. That included a pretty deep shot on third-and-16 on the first possession that was negated by a holding penalty. To open the next drive, Cutler threw a laser to Parker down the middle for a 16-yard gain.

As expected, the worst play between them was an attempted third-down screen that fell incomplete. Meanwhile, a previous short pass to Landry, on his lone target from Cutler, went for minus-3 yards.

That's Cutler vs. Tannehill in a nutshell. Tannehill, with his lack of elite arm strength, tailored more to spread the ball around intermediately, targeted Landry 275 times in 29 games over the past two seasons.

Unfortunately for Landry, who has an off-field cloud over him while he seeks a new contract, Cutler isn't going to do any favors to boost his value on the field.

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Although Cutler has worked well with a Landry-type wideout, Eddie Royal, in the past, his most recent work in Chicago, under current Miami coach Adam Gase, saw him zone in on Alshon Jeffery. Parker (6-3, 212) is built eerily similarly to Jeffery (6-3, 218). Lean and lanky with deceptive speed, Jeffery was the ideal target for Cutler — big enough to go up and get his high, hard ones and fast enough to catch up to his bombs.

That sets up Parker to be Miami's busiest and most effective wideout in 2017, building on his 82 career receptions for 1,238 yards and seven touchdowns — perhaps matching that this year.

Miami has been hoping that Parker, the team's first-round (No. 14 overall) pick out of Louisville in 2015, would be ready to explode in his third season — when wideouts with his skill set tend to break out. That was less likely to come to fruition with Tannehill in the lineup.

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Parker only flashed as a downfield option during his first two NFL seasons, tied to having his rookie year thrown off by a foot injury. By all accounts he has dominated his third training camp with consistent standout practices and has looked the part of the true No. 1 he was drafted to be.

He was probably headed for more of a solid but unspectacular season before the late Cutler twist to the quarterback situation. With Cutler force-feeding him and willing to take more shots, Parker is ready to rocket to stardom.

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