Hartline, Dolphins' receivers 'doing a good job'
MIAMI -- Dolphins wide receivers have attracted a lot of attention since the start of training camp. Miami is happy now it's for positive reasons.
As was depicted on HBO's "Hard Knocks" throughout training camp, there have been questions about the group's ability. But a lot of the questions were answered during their record-setting performance last Sunday at Arizona.
After catching 12 passes for a franchise-record 253 yards, Brian Hartline now leads the NFL with 455 yards receiving. Davone Bess' performance in the 24-21 overtime loss against the Cardinals was easy to overlook, but he had career-high 123 yards on seven catches.
"I think they're doing a good job," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "I'm not worried about what other people thought of our receivers. What I'm worried about is, are they getting open? Are they catching the ball consistently? Are they helping us move into scoring territory and ultimately score points? I think they're developing."
Hartline's 253 yards receiving at Arizona is the highest total in the NFL since 2006 when Buffalo's Lee Evans had 265 against Houston. Hartline also set a Miami record on Sunday for total yards from scrimmage, breaking a 25-year-old mark that belonged to former running back Troy Stradford.
Hartline's performance brought more national attention.
"It's all fun," Hartline said. "I enjoy that part of it. It's never really been a goal to have those guys' attention. But it's fun talking to those guys, because they're football minds. Talking football is fun."
This summer, the talk surrounding the Miami wide receivers was whether the group was good enough.
Even Philbin and GM Jeff Ireland questioned their group, with Ireland being shown on "Hard Knocks" telling a reporter, "We have 4s, 5s and 6s. We need 3s, 2s and 1s."
In their roles as starters for the Dolphins this season, Hartline and Bess definitely have produced. But their backups combined for only four catches in the first four games.
The team is hoping to get a boost from veteran Jabar Gaffney, who was signed Tuesday after being released by New England in the offseason. Gaffney was signed to replace free agent acquisition Legedu Naanee, who was released two days after committing a fumble after his first catch of the season.
Gaffney, who led Washington with 68 catches in 2011, had worked out for the Dolphins the week of the regular-season opener. He said he was still slowed at the time by a leg injury that caused him to be released by the Patriots.
"Seemed like a good fit, and they wanted me," said Gaffney, a former Florida Gators standout. "That's why I'm here. It's good to go where you wanted. I'm a Florida guy."
Gaffney is hoping to get on the field for Sunday's game at Cincinnati. It's a game that Hartline, a native of Ohio and former Ohio State standout, very much is looking forward to.
While Hartline will be hard-pressed to match what he did at Arizona, he'll be looking to build on what has been an impressive but also somewhat surprising start. Hartline missed all but one practice of training camp because of a leg injury. And that was after Hartline missed virtually all of the offseason practices after having an appendectomy.
"It was tough," Hartline said of his lost preparation time. "It's tough to watch. New staff, new quarterback. There was so much going into it. I just stayed to the grind. People around me kept me in it and it helped me come out into the season."
And what Hartline, as well as Bess have done since the start of the regular season is somewhat help change the perception of the Dolphins' wide receiver corps. Even then, Hartline said there's still more work to do in that area.
"One week at a time," he said. "We're not overly concerned about it. Everybody's going to take their own opinion about it. There are a lot of good wide receivers out there, and we feel like we have a good group here. As long as we can add more and more weapons, have more and more guys step up, it can be a really good group."
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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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