The Miami Dolphins played Tua Tagovailoa and most of their starters for two series in Saturday's preseason bout against the Las Vegas Raiders. But when Teddy Bridgewater and the backups entered in the second quarter, tight end Mike Gesicki remained in the game.
It was eyebrow-raising to see the franchise-tagged TE stay in the game when most of the starters exited, but Gesicki noted that he wanted to get more reps as he is essentially learning a new position in Mike McDaniel's scheme.
"I need it," Gesicki said. "I need all the reps I can get. I mean, I played receiver last year, I've played receiver the past three or four years. I'm playing tight end now and any reps I can get live, out there blocking, putting my hands on another guy and going out there, working hard and blocking; honestly, just working on my footwork and my hand placement, all that kind of stuff. Any reps I can get at that, I can use it."
Gesicki has not been known as a blocker during his first four seasons, so expecting him to morph into the George Kittle of McDaniel's offense immediately is faulty. The question is how the coach will adjust to keep Gesicki involved. Will the staff turn more to Durham Smythe as the more natural blocker?
Those issues are being ironed out during camp and preseason action, but Gesicki needing 12 more snaps with the backups suggests the transition isn't going as smoothly as initially proposed.
Always an optimist, McDaniel praised Gesicki's competitive fire as he stayed in with the second-stringers.
"He is a couple plays on the ball away from having a really good game that he feels really good about," McDaniel said. "That's one of the reasons why he stayed in the game, because he was frustrated. As a competitor, he knew he could make the plays that he didn't. It's nothing out of the ordinary or nothing far from exactly what he has been doing.
"He just needs to continue to be diligent and not get frustrated when the ball doesn't bounce his way or they get paid, too; they hit him, he doesn't make a play on the ball. We all appreciate the fact that he is a competitor, and he is not satisfied with touching the ball and not coming down with it. As long as he approaches it like the player that he is where he is very accountable, we'll be fine, he will be fine, and we'll all be better for it."
Playing on the franchise tag after back-to-back 700-plus yard seasons, how quickly the new scheme meshes for Gesicki will be interesting to track. Would McDaniel relent and use him as a big third WR or continue to deploy him as TE1 if he struggles with the blocking aspect?
NFL+ gives you the freedom to watch LIVE out-of-market preseason games, LIVE local and prime-time regular-season and postseason games on your phone or tablet, the best NFL programming on-demand and more! Wherever you are, this is how you football!Learn more about NFL+.