Trio of Dolphins' second-year skill players making progress

Adam Gase has noticed how much receiver Leonte Carroo has improved in his second year. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins haven't seen much from their middle-round investment of offensive skill players from last year's draft, but coach Adam Gase likes the trio's potential thus far in camp.

Running back Kenyan Drake, taken No. 73 overall, didn't have much of an opportunity in the Dolphins backfield as a rookie, playing behind the likes of Arian Foster, Jay Ajayi and Damien Williams. With Ajayi in concussion protocol and not cleared for contact, the former Alabama speedster has stepped up into a larger role.

"The more reps he can get the better," Gase said. "Last year we were kind of in and out in the spring. We had so much work to do with Jay, and when Arian was here and Damien, he kind of got lost in the shuffle a little bit. Being able to get him as many reps as we can is valuable for us and just getting him comfortable and understanding kind of how everything works with the run game, where he fits and where he's supposed to go. The reps for him are very important."

Second-year wideouts Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant are competing for snaps behind Miami's three more proven commodities in Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills. Both have shown progress as they become more comfortable with the offense, according to their coach.

"Putting him out there on the outside lets him use his strength -- his quickness off the ball, his vertical speed," Gase said of Grant, who played sparingly as a rookie slot receiver but did return a punt for a touchdown. "When he makes a cut, he creates separation. If you get the ball in his hands and there's open space, it's a dangerous situation for the defense. I just see a guy that's very focused. He wants to do right. He's really been good in the meetings. He's trying to be one of those guys that does things as perfect as he can. It's been good so far."

As for Carroo, he was targeted six times last season after Miami traded multiple picks to acquire him in the third round. The slimmed-down wideout out of Rutgers "has a way better grip on the playbook."

"He's playing way faster," Gase said. "His game speed, or practice speed in this case, has been light-years from last year. He's very comfortable. You can see why we drafted him because he has strong hands, [he's a] big guy, physical at the line of scrimmage. His quickness has gotten better. His releases have gotten better this year. He has a better feel of what defenses are trying to do and why they do it, and I think that that has helped him."

Gase will have his first chance to see if these progressions in practice translate to the games when the Dolphins host the Atlanta Falcons Thursday night in their preseason opener.