DAVIE, Fla. » One respected analyst says something valid and others take notice.
They investigate for themselves, ask around, and usually formulate their own conclusions. If they agree, soon enough they start saying it too, and it becomes the consensus.
When everyone starts seeing it, then saying it, it eventually becomes the gospel.
That’s the easiest way to explain Miami Dolphins receiver Davone Bess’ grassroots campaign to gain recognition as the NFL’s best slot receiver. Two and a half seasons into his NFL career, everyone seems to be singing praises for Bess.
"Davone Bess is one of the better route runners underneath," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock stated with a matter-of-fact tone. "The more room Bess has underneath, the more effective he will be. He’s very close, in my opinion, to Wes Welker."
Mayock’s talking about the former Dolphins receiver, who has used his tenure in New England to become the preeminent slot receiver, which is typically an inside receiver who attacks the middle of the field using slants, drags and short dig routes.
But most inside the NFL believe Bess — who finished second in the NFL last season in third-down receptions, and is presently tied for first in that category — is giving Welker a run for his money because of his short-area quickness, sure hands and level of consistency.
Brandon Marshall nicknamed his teammate "D-Best," playing on Bess’ last name, and how much he’s learned to respect his route-running ability, and toughness.
BESS GETTING BETTER AND BETTER
In his third NFL season, Hawaii alumnus Davone Bess is continuing the trend of improving his performance every year:
"He plays big," Marshall said of Bess, who has contributed 26 receptions for 282 yards and scored two touchdowns this season.
Since adding Bess in 2008 as an undrafted rookie out of the University of Hawaii, and after watching him catch 156 passes for 1,594 yards and five touchdowns, the Dolphins front office has learned to share Marshall’s respect for his "little buddy."
General manager Jeff Ireland valued Bess so much he initiated talks for a two-year extension both sides agreed to last weekend, which paid Bess a $3 million bonus. The deal also ensures that he’s the highest-paid slot receiver in the game, and will be a Dolphin until after the 2012 season.
Anyone concerned that Bess will take his foot off the gas now that his bank account’s put on some weight clearly doesn’t know this scrappy product of Oakland, who is consistently the first player on the practice field, and usually the last one off it.
"I think I get satisfaction in knowing that I accomplished something. Obviously the money is good, and to have the security from a family standpoint is good," said Bess, whose wife gave birth to his second child, a son named Kingston, 4 hours before the Patriots game, in which he caught eight passes for 98 yards and a touchdown.
"But knowing that all the hard work I put in, the sacrifices and dedication, the determination I put in; everything I wanted to do, everything I mapped out to do came through," Bess said, "I’m thankful. But nothing’s going to change."
Bess needs 10 more receptions to catch the most passes by a Dolphin in his first three seasons in the NFL. Chris Chambers holds the record with 164 catches, and Bess sits in third place, behind tight end Randy McMichael, with 155 catches heading into tomorrow’s game against the Steelers.
Considering how quarterback-friendly he is, it’s likely he’ll shatter that record before the midseason point.
"He has a knack for understanding leverage on a defender," said backup quarterback Chad Pennington, who immediately identified Bess as a playmaker his rookie season, asking coaches and teammates, "Who is this guy?"
"He has a knack for knowing when to take a little bit longer on a route, when to speed up a route, and ‘Where do I need to be when the quarterback throws the ball?’ " said Pennington, who compares Bess favorably to former Jets teammate Wayne Chrebet. "Some guys just run routes the way it’s on paper and if it’s not perfect they don’t get open. Davone has a knack to run a route and even though it’s not run like it’s on paper, he gets in that window and he finds a way to get open."