Healthy, more emotional DeVante Parker is Dolphins' biggest X factor

DAVIE, Fla. -- The two most impressive catches of offseason practices this spring for the Miami Dolphins both involved DeVante Parker.

Last week, he beat the Dolphins' No. 1 cornerback, Byron Maxwell, for a leaping touchdown. Then on Wednesday, he caught a long touchdown pass over Xavien Howard despite a swarm of bees nearby.

But making highlight-reel catches is nothing new for Parker. It was the emotional reaction the receiver showed after those receptions that was a change from previous seasons.

Parker did some serious trash-talking with Maxwell, Howard and the entire defensive sideline after making those two touchdown receptions. Usually, Parker is shy in public and not a man of many words, but on each of those two days he wasn’t shy about letting the defense know he got the best of them.

“It’s something newer now,” Parker said of his outward emotions. “I just feel 100 percent and I just express myself and let it all out now. I just feel better.”

Those were welcome sights for Miami’s coaching staff, which wants to see Parker take his game to the next level in his third season. Parker is the Dolphins' biggest X factor this season, with the ability to help last season's 24th-ranked offense reach new heights.

Parker, who has the talent to be a 1,000-yard receiver, recorded 56 receptions for 744 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. According to head coach Adam Gase, part of the issue for Parker is staying healthy and attention to detail. Parker dealt with a foot injury his rookie year and hamstring issues last season.

This week Parker explained how he’s working on the details to improve. He’s cooking more, improving his diet, putting more emphasis on stretching and sleeping eight hours a night. Parker hopes these preventative measures will keep him healthy and improve his overall performance.

The early results have shown on the practice field. Parker has consistently been an offensive standout during organized team activities and minicamp by making a combination of routine and big plays.

“I really think he’ll have a great, big year -- a gigantic year for us,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said. “That would be huge. ... It helps with the quarterback. It helps with your running game. It helps everything.”

Parker is pleased that his coaches are noticing his improvements.

“My reaction to that is, coach knows what I can do and seeing what I’ve been doing in the offseason and how much I’ve progressed since last year, and being a lot healthier than last year, too,” Parker said.

What is the ceiling for a healthy Parker?

In terms of body type and athleticism, Parker at his best is comparable to Cincinnati Bengals Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green. Parker is a leaper with strong hands and does a good job fighting for 50-50 balls. He also has a long stride and runs faster than his 6-foot-3, 212-pound frame would suggest.

There have been flashes of this in games and practices the past two seasons. But the flashes have been more consistent this spring, and Parker and the Dolphins expect that to continue into the upcoming regular season.

“I feel good about things right now,” Parker said. “I am having a lot of fun on the field, interacting with those guys, talking smack to the defense whenever I can. It’s just fun. We both go back at it -- back and forth at it. I just like being out there.”