MIAMI GARDENS — There was a time when Jeff Wilson was a diamond in the rough. An unknown, undrafted commodity out of the University of North Texas who was unearthed by Miami head coach Mike McDaniel during his time as the 49ers’ run-game coordinator.
Wilson eventually went onto become a star in San Francisco and ever since his trspande to the Dolphins on Nov. 1, he’s fit right in. In more ways than one.
“It’s just the culture here, man,” Wilson said Wednesday. “Even with the fun, you can still tell that everybody is still on the plan and on the goal of getting to where we want to go. I mean, I just feel like that’s kind of cool and unique to have fun and be able to work at a high level at the same time.”
Wilson has been a seamless fit into McDaniel’s offense, having a lot of experience in the wide-zone running scheme that he thrived in under Kyle Shanahan. He proved his comfort level by being the team’s leading rusher and scoring a touchdown in his Miami debut, a win against the Chicago Bears last Sunday.
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But familiarity with the system isn’t the only way that he’s managed to fit in with the running back room and the rest of the offense. The fifth-year back has the signature drive and hunger of an undrafted player. That’s something that has become commonplace in the Dolphins locker room, especially among the running backs.
With the exception of Myles Gaskin, who was drafted in the seventh round in 2019, every running back on Miami’s roster went undrafted, including fullback Alec Ingold. As a fellow undrafted free agent, guard Robert Jones can’t help but admire the level that guys like Wilson and Raheem Mostert–who played with Wilson in San Francisco–have reached.
“It shows you where hard work can take you and where it can get you,” Jones said. “So, just having those guys just makes you want to go harder because they’re always going to go out and give 110 percent.”
Wilson has also proven to be a great presence and personality in the locker room and offensive meeting room, having made a great early impression on both teammates and coaches by bringing infectious, positive energy.
“He’s open,” Jones said of Wilson. “He wants to get to know everybody, just make everybody smile, have fun. But we know when we go out on that field he’s a worker, he’s a grinder.”
Frank Smith, Miami’s offensive coordinator, echoed Jones’ sentiments and cannot wait to see what Wilson will be able to accomplish in the coming weeks as gets even more comfortable and continues to flourish in the Dolphins’ ecosystem.
“He’s just a guy who loves football,” Smith said. “You can just feel his energy every day when you’re just talking to him. So I think that we’re really fortunate that it was able to happen. We’ll just keep utilizing him for what he can do, and that’s a complete back.”
McDaniel clarifies Jackson’s standing upon return
Right tackle Austin Jackson continued progress towards his return to action this week as he participated in practice Thursday and Friday.
While it’s still unlikely that the third-year lineman plays Sunday against the Browns as he works his way back from a high ankle sprain that he suffered against the Patriots in Week 1, there is little doubt about his status on the team once he’s back on the field.
Although the play of Brandon Shell in relief has been impressive, McDaniel does not envision any position changes for Jackson unless the team needs him to move around.
“I see Austin as our starting right tackle,” McDaniel said. “Certainly the play of [Brandon Shell] lends us the opportunity to utilize him in other positions because his play has been so strong. But I still, without a shadow of a doubt, haven’t strayed away at all from my feelings of Austin being the starting right tackle because of what he showed me coming back.”
Jackson’s return would be a big boost for an offensive line that’s already been trending up over the last few weeks. With players consistently shuffling in-and-out of the lineup, most recently Jones stepping up in place of the injured Liam Eichenberg, Miami has given up two sacks over the last three weeks, both coming in one game.
Jackson looks forward to injecting even more life to the improving unit.
“I definitely look to play and lead by my style of play – being tenacious, being on point with assignments, and just being a spark for my team,”” Jackson said Thursday. “I want to be that pop that you hear and everyone’s like, ‘What’s that?’ Just keep contributing in every way I can.”
More Dolphins injury updates
Jackson, left tackle Terron Armstead (toe/calf), quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (knee) and tight end Tanner Conner (knee) are all questionable for Sunday’s game. Hunter Long, who is in the concussion protocol, is out.
Armstead, who’s been dealing with a toe injury for the majority of the season, did not practice Wednesday or Friday and was a limited participant Thursday.
Bridgewater was listed as a limited participant on Friday after seemingly not having an issue for most of the week.