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Erik Ezukanma Dolphins

Erik Ezukanma Looks Like Future Gem For Dolphins

  • Jack McKessy
  • August 22, 2022
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There’s been plenty of attention this offseason on the Miami Dolphins’ wide receivers room with the additions of Tyreek Hill and Cedrick Wilson to a corps that already had Jaylen Waddle. As high profile as those additions may be and as stacked as the receiving corps seems already, it’s fourth-round rookie receiver Erik Ezukanma who has been stealing the show in training camp and preseason action.

As a fourth-round pick in a crowded receivers room, Ezukanma has had to prove himself and demand attention with his play ahead of the regular season. That’s exactly what he’s done so far, and it was on full display for the general public in Saturday’s matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders. Ezukanma finished the night with six catches for 119 yards (all in the second half), far and away the leader for all receivers on either team in the contest.

For anyone who’s been paying attention, that kind of production shouldn’t be too surprising.

Ezukanma has been a highly productive receiver since his 2020 season with the Texas Tech Red Raiders as a possession receiver out of the slot with tons of big-play potential. Thanks to his wide catch radius and great ball skills, Ezukanma won frequently in contested-catch situations in college even without creating separation with his release and route-running. That contested-catch ability is how the big plays came for Ezukanma at Texas Tech, as he fought for and won 50/50 balls deep downfield.

When the Dolphins drafted Ezukanma in the fourth round, it wasn’t because they needed more receiver depth or more big-play threats behind Hill, Waddle, and Wilson. Instead, it was more likely because of how well his playstyle complements that of the receivers who were already there.

Where Miami’s starting trio features more speed, shiftiness, and resulting yards-after-catch potential, Ezukanma is a big-bodied possession guy. He’s less shifty and more physical. He relies on his bigger frame at 6-foot-2 and 206 pounds both to win routes and gain some extra yardage by driving through arm tackles after the catch.

The Dolphins began to see that selection pay dividends early as Ezukanma immediately began to ball out in training camp.

That contested-catch ability was on full display. Ezukanma gets vertical but doesn’t create a ton of separation early in his route. It didn’t end up mattering much. With the defender draped on top of him, the rookie leaps ahead to snag the perfectly placed ball out of the air for what would have been a huge gain in a game situation. (Yes, that is foreshadowing.)

There were more plays in training camp that were similar stories. 

Ezukanma gets an outside release to get vertical out of the slot here then, as the ball comes in, adjusts his route toward the sideline to create a little bit of extra separation at the last second to haul in the catch. As in the other play, Ezukanma showed off his abilities as a deep threat because of his capacity to break open downfield and use his ball skills to secure catches.

Flash forward to preseason game action, and Ezukanma just kept making plays.

The rookie had a quiet first game against the Buccaneers in Miami’s first preseason game, but we still got to get a look at the physicality and competitive toughness that has brought him success. Ezukanma only had a couple of catches in that first preseason game with his first being the most notable. (The second was a short gain on a screen that didn’t show off much of his skill set.)

After getting open on a nice zone-beating route, Ezukanma breaks through a few arm tackles to gain five more yards. It’s not a highlight reel play or anything dazzling but serves as a good reminder that the rookie has the drive and frame to fight for those extra yards.

What was much more impressive was Ezukanma’s aforementioned second game, that one against the Raiders. While there were other plays that showed off the Texas Tech product’s motor and ball skills, nothing was quite as marvelous as his spinning, one-handed catch.

Ezukanma isn’t wide open and he’s close to the sideline. Thanks to his fantastic ball skills and good spatial awareness, he’s able to turn back to the ball and somehow pulls it in underneath the outstretched arm of the Raiders’ nickel corner. It’s a remarkable play that really shows the big-play upside of Ezukanma’s skill set as a bigger possession receiver with top-notch ball skills.

Ezukanma likely won’t have the same attention or production that guys like Hill and Waddle will, but the Dolphins certainly won’t regret adding a young, talented receiver like him to their receiving corps. Even if he doesn’t break out just yet this season, he could be a future gem in Miami’s offense in the coming years.

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Jack McKessy