DAVIE, Fla. The more Davone Bess talks, the more the number increases.
I want to get back to 70, to 80, 90, possibly 100 catches, the Dolphins wide receiver says of his expectations for this season.
Wait a minute. Catch 100 balls?
Thats something that never has been done in Miamis 46-year history, and nobody has come all that close. The team record is 90 by O.J. McDuffie in 1998, when he became the only Dolphin ever to lead the league in receptions.
I believe I can, Bess said of reaching the century mark. Im a student of the game. I work hard at practice and at understanding coverages.
The Dolphins might have the weakest receiving corps in the NFL, but Bess is their saving grace. Yes, he had an off year in 2011, catching 51 passes for 537 yards. But he had grabbed 79 balls in 2010 and 76 the year before that.
Somebody has to catch passes this season from rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. It might as well be Bess.
Bess had been the Dolphins premier receiver until Brandon Marshall showed up in 2010. Marshall the past two seasons caught a combined 167 passes for 2,228 yards, and he made the Pro Bowl last season.
But Marshall was traded to Chicago. So Bess knows he really needs to make up for last season.
It crossed my mind that were going to have to fill that void of Brandon being gone, Bess said. From that standpoint, Im just trying to make the most of my opportunity."
No question Bess wants to be Miamis man at receiver.
My whole approach since Ive been in the league, even my rookie year (when he had 54 catches in 2008), I wanted to have that approach, Bess said. I want the bull's-eye. Third down, crunch time, I want the ball. I want the bull's-eye.
Bess has got it. Miamis shaky receiving situation assures opponents will key on him even more than in the past.
Bess isnt worried about that. Neither are his teammates, who believe hes capable of becoming the first Dolphin in haul in 100 passes.
Davones an amazing receiver, tackle Jake Long said. I wouldnt doubt him one bit. Hes a leader on offense. Hes done a great job ever since hes been here.
When Bess came out of nowhere in 2008 to grab those 54 balls, it was the second most in a season by an undrafted rookie since the common draft began in 1967. Wayne Chrebet of the New York Jets hauled in 66 balls in 1995.
In his first four seasons, the 5-foot-10, 193-pound University of Hawaii product has caught 260 passes for 2,669 yards. Thats a not-exactly-overwhelming average of 10.3 yards per catch, but Bess is a possession receiver rather than a speedy deep threat.
Sometimes, and coaches are guilty of it, we just want a guy to be able to run down the field and run by somebody and make a big play down the field, a big body guy, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. Certainly there is a time and a place for that. But there is still something to be said for the player who really understands the game itself and can get himself open and find ways. Its not just shear speed maybe and athleticism. It may be the old-fashioned shoulder fake . Its impressive to watch.
As for 100 catches, that really would be impressive. Dan Marinos two favorite targets, Mark Clayton (a high of 86 in 1988) and Mark Duper (a best of 71 in 1984), never did it.
He has that ability, Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby said of Bess reaching the century mark. He can get open, and with his professionalism and just the way he approaches the game. Hell be ready if the ball comes to him.
Bess is ready to be Miamis man.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson