Want some good news on the 1-4 Miami Dolphins? Only one thing comes to me right quick, and it’s somebody right quick.
Rookie Jakeem Grant, 5-feet-7 and 172 pounds, is close to matching the franchise record for punt return touchdowns.
OK, so the record is two, shared by Freddie Solomon, Tommy Vigorito and O.J. McDuffie, but Grant made it look so easy bringing a punt back for 74 yards and a score against Tennessee that it makes you think he’s only getting started.
There have only been three longer punt returns than Grant’s in the NFL this season – 85 yards and a score for Jamison Crowder of Washington and Andre Roberts of Detroit plus a 79-yarder for Marcus Sherels of Minnesota.
On top of that, with a small sample size of seven returns, Grant ranks seventh in the league with an average of 14.7 yards. He’ll need to pop a few more to keep that going or even grow it a bit, but in all of Dolphins history only one player has averaged more than that over an entire season. That was Jeff Ogden on 17.0 yards per return in 2000.
Keeping the kid in one piece may be a problem, of course. He headed back to the locker room in the first half of that 30-17 loss to the Titans but returned in the second half. Coach Adam Gase turned to Jarvis Landry later in the game, as he is prone to do.
“I just got rolled up on my ankle,” Grant said. “I came back in because I felt like if I would have stayed out, I would have been letting my team down. That’s just how I am. I’m going to push through anything I can to help the team out.”
Grant kind of reminds me of Vigorito when it comes to providing a real spark as a newcomer to the team. In 1981, in a Thursday night game at the Orange Bowl, Vigorito made a similar rookie splash by returning a punt 87 yards for a touchdown in a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Vigorito wasn’t quite as small as Grant at 5-10 and 193, but who is?
Both were good finds, too. Vigorito was a fifth-round draft pick for the Dolphins. Grant joined the team this year as a sixth-rounder.
Who’s my pick for the most dangerous punt returner in Dolphins history?
How about Solomon, who died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 59? Between 1975 and 1977 the former University of Tampa quarterback scored two touchdowns for the Dolphins on punt returns. Later he scored two more for San Francisco.
Ted Ginn Jr., was more of a one-hit wonder as a punt returner, bringing one back 87 yards for a score at Philadelphia in 2007. His specialty was kickoffs, with two returned for Dolphin touchdowns in 2009 alone.