Receiver Berrios dishes on move from Jets to Dolphins. And new tight end, guard weigh in
Highlights from Wednesday media briefings with the Dolphins’ three new non-quarterback additions on offense, receiver Braxton Berrios, guard/center Dan Feeney and tight end Eric Saubert:
▪ Berrios - who was a standout at the University of Miami and then played four years with the Jets - made clear that the appeal of the Dolphins extended well beyond returning to South Florida.
“We play each other twice a year,” he said of the Jets and Dolphins. “I monitor our division more closely than any others. Miami has done a lot recently, dating back to last year, building a culture, building a team of guys who get the job done and build it the right way. When this became an option, the more I thought about it, the more attractive it got. Real excited to be here.”
Berrios’ father grew up in Miami and met Braxton’s mother in North Carolina. His “only dream was to play for the U,” the Dolphins’ new receiver said.
Berrios had 107 catches for 1,085 yards (10.1 average) and five touchdowns for the Jets during the past four seasons, including 18 receptions for 145 yards last season. He appeared in 65 games and started five during those four seasons in New York.
Berrios also is a skilled returner; he led the league in kickoff return average at 30.4 in 2021.
He was fifth in punt return average last season with an 11.4 average on 21 attempts, and he averaged 23.1 yards on 26 kickoff returns last season, which ranked 13th among NFL players (minimum 10 returns).
“I take a lot of pride in it,” he said of returning punts and kickoffs. “It’s not for everybody. If you’re doing it, you have to be fully committed to doing it. I’ve been one of the best in the league at it and want to get back to that top spot. You have to have a screw loose to do it and really enjoy it. It can swing a game like any other interception or touchdown. There’s a huge sense of pride in it.”
Tyreek Hill called Berrios “Wes Welker 2” on Twitter. Welker is entering his second season as the Dolphins’ wide receivers coach.
“I’m skilled to be in the same room as coach Wes, to be able to pick his brain every single day,” Berrios said. “One of the best to ever do it.”
Over the years, Berrios studied tape of Welker, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Tyler Lockett. “Those are the ones I mainly watched in regard to slots, but I tried to take pieces from everybody.”
But he said he doesn’t consider himself simply a slot receiver.
He said “there are similarities” with the Jets offense. “I haven’t dove fully into all of that yet. It should be a quick learning curve.”
What about playing with Hill and Waddle? “They are incredible across the board. Can’t wait to watch and learn from them. I’m down to do whatever, wherever. Maybe if they take the top off, I’ll work across the middle or outside. I’ll do whatever it takes to win.”
Berrios said of Tua Tagovailoa: “I’ve been very impressed. He’s dealt with a lot of adversity and steps to the plate every single time. He’s an absolute warrior, kind of like we got with my guy Mike White [the former Jet who’s now the Dolphins’ backup quarterback].
“Eager to see how he sees the game from his mouth, not just film. I’m excited to play with him.”
He believes being able to practice against Pro Bowl cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard will help him.
“Excited to see what works and what doesn’t against the top DBs in the world on a daily basis,” he said.
Berrios caught 100 passes for 1,175 yards and 14 TDs in four seasons for the Hurricanes.
His favorite moment as a Hurricane was “the 2017 Notre Dame game,” in which the Canes crushed the Fighting Irish.
“College Gameday was there,” Berrios said. “41-8 speaks for itself. Nothing like Hard Rock when it gets rocking.”
He was drafted in the sixth round by the Patriots in 2018, but spent the season on injured reserve. The Jets claimed him off waivers on Sept. 1, 2019.
He signed a two-year, $12 million extension with the Jets last March but was waived on March 9. Miami is paying him $3.5 million on a one-year contract.
His addition gives Miami eight receivers under contract: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Berrios, Cedric Wilson Jr., River Cracraft, Erik Ezukanma, Freddie Swain and Braylon Sanders.
▪ Feeney, who reportedly got $3.25 million in a one-year deal with Miami, said he was told there will be “opportunities” to compete for playing time.
That could be at left guard, in a competition against incumbent starter Liam Eichenberg and Rob Jones.
He has started 64 games at four different positions - left guard, center, right guard and as an extra offensive lineman. Most of his starts have come at left guard, but he has started 19 games at center, including for the Chargers throughout 2020.
Feeney started 48 games for the Chargers from 2018 through 2020 and had seven starts for the Jets over the past two seasons. He allowed one sack and three pressures in 67 pass blocking chances last season, which isn’t bad.
PFF ranked him 80th among 140 guards as a run-blocker last year.
The Chargers selected him in the third round (71st overall) out of Indiana in 2017; he was the fourth guard selected.
The AFC East is “going to be a powerhouse division,” he said, amid expectations that Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers eventuallly will be traded to the Jets.
▪ New tight end Saubert – who has appeared in 74 games and started 15 over six seasons – said he has been “in this [offensive] system before. There’s a lot of familiarity. There’s a lot of opportunity in this offense for the tight end. Whatever they ask me to do is what I’m going to do.”
He said one of the appeals was reuniting with Dolphins offensive coordinator Frank Smith. That’s “a positive. I owe him a lot in my development. Getting back with him will be good.”
His career stats are modest: 33 catches for 280 yards and two TDs. Per overthecap.com, he will make the league veteran minimum – $1.08 million.
“When I was coming out of college, I was touted as a receiver,” he said. “I’m now being touted as only a blocker. I didn’t lose that ability to receive. I take pride in my ability to be a receiver or blocker.”
A former Falcons fifth-round pick out of Drake, Saubert has appeared in games for Atlanta, Chicago, Jacksonville and Denver and also was on the practice squads for Oakland (where he worked with Frank Smith) and New England.
He spent the past two seasons with Denver, catching 15 passes for 148 yards last season in 17 games and six starts.
He had four starts for the Broncos in 2021.
Of bouncing around so much in his career, Saubert said: “I’ve now learned eight or nine offenses in my career. Learning an offense for me now is not difficult. It’s a curse in the fact you are moving around so much. The instability is kind of annoying. It’s shaped me to who I’ve become now.”
Saubert played 27 and 35 percent of Denver’s offensive snaps the past two seasons. Miami now has three tight ends under contract: Durham Smythe, Saubert and Tanner Conner. The draft is deep in tight ends.
“I’ve come a really long way since my rookie year,” Saubert said. “My development in Denver has shown my strengths .. The best is to come for me. Really looking forward to” playing for the Dolphins.
He said “we have an awesome roster. Super Bowl is the goal.”
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, whose time in Denver overlapped with Saubert’s for a year, said Fangio operates “one of the hardest defenses to recognize. They hide [coverages] pretty well.”