Wide receiver Isaiah Ford had to wait a long time to get his shot with the Miami Dolphins in the regular season, but he proved more than capable in the final weeks of the 2019 season.
But what happens next for the 2017 seventh-round pick from Virginia Tech?
Does Ford go back to being a forgotten man in the Dolphins wide receiver corps? Or has the time come for him to not only make the active roster from the start of a season but to be given a more prominent role on offense?
The door certainly is open after the opt-outs of both Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson, which left the Dolphins with little certainty beyond 2019 breakout star.
Jakeem Grant and 2019 rookie sensation Preston Williams both are coming off season-ending leg injuries, and the rest of the wide receiver corps consists of unproven players and newcomer Chester Rogers.
Wilson largely is expected to play the role of slot receiver in the offense before he opted out, but it now looks wide open and Ford certainly would love nothing better than to be tabbed.
“We’ve got a room full of competitive guys,” Ford said Wednesday. “I think that’s something that has been stated before they decided to opt out, and even now. Our room has a ton of competitiveness, a ton of talent, and it’s just my job to go in each day and continue to work to get a little better each day and kind of just do whatever I can to be an outlet — whether it’s the younger guys bouncing ideas or things that I’m seeing that they may not be seeing or everything, just to make our group complete as a whole.”
Ford proved last year he could be dependable as a receiver, which always will earn points with coaches. On the negative side, there isn’t any one part of his game that really stands out.
In simpler terms, he’s solid in every phase but not outstanding in any of them.
Maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all, but it was interesting that when head coach Brian Flores was asked Wednesday morning about his depth at wide receiver, he mentioned eight different players.
Ford was not one of them.
The only other wide receivers who weren’t mentioned were Gary Jennings and Mack Hollins.
So is Ford a forgotten man again?
A look at Ford’s transactions sheet illustrates just how tough a road it’s been for him and how patient and perseverant he’s had to be:
Aug. 18, 2017 — Waived/injured
Aug. 19, 2017 — Placed on IR with knee injury
Sept. 1, 2018 — Waived
Sept. 2, 2018 — Signed to practice squad
Nov. 28, 2018 — Signed to active roster
Aug. 31, 2019 — Waived
Sept. 1, 2019 — Signed to practice squad
Sept. 25, 2019 — Signed to active roster
Oct. 30, 2019 — Waived
Nov. 1, 2019 — Signed to practice squad
Nov, 27, 2019 — Signed to active roster
Ford had his first two NFL catches in the Week 6 game against Washington, but then closed the season in style with 21 catches in the final four games.
Included in that stretch was the game at New England where Ford had a career-high seven catches for 54 yards. The previous week, he had the big play in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal against Cincinnati.
After being re-signed in the offseason as an exclusive-rights free agent, Ford went about building up his body.
“This offseason I worked extremely hard on just preparing my body mentally and physically,” he said. “I’m actually 200 pounds now and that was a big goal of mine for a while. Me and our nutritionist have been working extremely hard on that and then this offseason, I’ve been working extremely hard on focusing on the little details and little muscles — stability, balance, core and all of those things to kind of strengthen everything around my major muscle groups.”
However it plays out, Ford is going to do everything in his power to earn a roster spot.
Throughout this entire process, I’m going into my fourth year, I’ve learned that you can only control what you can control,” Ford said. “It sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. Whether that’s me being intentional and getting to meetings early or staying after, doing work or studying extra — whatever I have to do, whatever that’s in my control that I can actually physically do and take control of, I try to do those things and let the chips fall where they may.”