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Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills shines in return to practice

DAVIE, Fla. -- It’s easy to overlook Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills. He had a quiet spring in organized team activities, and an injured calf has kept him out for most of training camp this summer.

Add in the fact backup receiver Rishard Matthews is having a strong three weeks of practices and the Dolphins also are awaiting the return of first-round pick DeVante Parker, and it’s easy to forget Stills and his potential in Miami’s offense.

On Monday, however, Stills offered a reminder of why the Dolphins acquired him in an offseason trade with the New Orleans Saints. Stills flashed several times, with a deep ball of 35-plus yards from quarterback Ryan Tannehill and at least three other receptions for first downs during Monday’s practice.

“I thought he looked good,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said of Stills. “Obviously, he’s been working hard doing what he’s capable of doing. But it’s good to get him out here working on the route concepts and the timing with receivers and quarterbacks. It’s good to have him.”

Stills was part of Miami’s offseason overhaul at wide receiver. The Dolphins traded linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round pick to the Saints for Stills, who had 95 receptions for 1,572 yards and eight touchdowns in two seasons with New Orleans.

It’s important for Stills to get healthy to start building a rapport with Tannehill. The two made several nice connections in team drills, including a deep pass on the sideline where Stills ran past cornerback Brice McCain for a big gain.

The quicker Stills gets acclimated, the faster he will find his place in Miami’s offense.

“I’ve done a really good job with the film study and keeping notes,” Stills said. “Yeah, I’m behind in a few things. But I feel like I’ve got experience. I played before, so I’m going to hop back in there and try to make some plays.”

Stills will continue to practice this week in an effort to see if he’s ready to make his Dolphins preseason debut against the Carolina Panthers on Saturday.

Miami has a crowded group at receiver that includes Stills, Parker, Matthews, Jarvis Landry and veteran Greg Jennings. Only two players will start outside, and Landry will be in the slot. It’s important for Stills to show what he can do now to carve out his role for the regular season.