Gase is in his second season as the Dolphins' head coach. He worked his way up the NFL ranks with the Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears. He experienced success at every stop, utilizing weapons like Calvin Johnson, Isaac Bruce, Brandon Marshall, Emmanuel Sanders, Alshon Jeffery, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
In two seasons with the Dolphins, Parker has seen limited success, mostly tied to limited opportunities and an inability to stay on the field. He has 1,238 yards and seven scores on 82 career receptions, but has only started 12 games.
Parker struggled to acclimate to an NFL routine, essential in keeping his body in top shape. But this year is different, according to several voices on the coaching staff. Gase says Parker is on time to meetings this season. Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen says the receiver is "hungry." Christensen also said that Parker is running "fast every day."
"It's strange just being with Demaryius and Decker when they were rookies," Gase said Wednesday at mandatory minicamp. "I was coaching wide receivers. I saw a lot of the same ... The way that his path has gone is very similar to those guys. There were injuries early in their career, they fought through some ups and downs and once they kind of figured it out, they just found ways to get better every day. I see him doing the same thing. He goes out there with a purpose and every day we watch the film and we see a guy getting better."
Thomas, 29, started just seven games in his first two seasons, piling up 54 catches for 834 yards and six scores. He suffered a concussion in college and fractured his foot, suffered another concussion, and sprained his ankle during his rookie campaign.
But Thomas exploded in his third year, earning his first of five Pro Bowl bids. That season he had 1,434 yards and 10 scores on 94 receptions. He has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in every season since. He has at least 90 catches in every season since 2012. He scored at least 10 times in every season from 2012 through 2014.
Decker had similar beginnings. He failed to make a single start during his 2010 rookie campaign with the Broncos, due to recurring foot and ankle issues. The next season he had 44 catches for 612 yards and eight scores. Decker has scored at least 11 times in three of his past five seasons. He also had 1,000-yard campaigns in three of his last five seasons.
"I feel good about things right now," Parker said Tuesday. "I am having a lot of fun on the field, interacting with those guys, talking smack to the defense whenever I can. It's just fun. We both go back at it -- back and forth at it. I just like being out there."
Although Parker passes the eye test and looks like he has WR1 capabilities in fantasy football, don't take him too early in your league's draft. He is still likely a fringe WR3 with upside at the start of the year until he can develop chemistry with quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
He does make an interesting sleeper target in the later rounds.
The Dolphins return for training camp in July.