Dion Sims is a stereotypical NFL tight end.
Like Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez and others before him, Sims was a two-sport athlete who played basketball in college before he was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 2013.
Though Sims doesn't have the resume of Gonzalez or Graham, his 6-foot-4 frame and speed has caught the eye of coaches and teammates this training camp now that he is combining his athletic ability with a better knowledge of the game.
Midway through his second offseason, Sims said the light has turned on for him.
"I'm a lot better, a lot smarter, better knowledge of the game and just know what to expect after seeing some stuff last year. [I've] got some experience so it'll carry over."
Sims, who had only six receptions for 32 yards during his rookie season last year, said he focused on getting stronger, quicker off the line and better at running routes during his workouts this offseason.
However, Sims said his biggest area of growth is the rapport he's built with the Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill now that he better understands his responsibilities as a receiver and a blocker.
Tannehill and Sims flashed their connection during the team's first scrimmage of the offseason. The third-year quarterback found Sims four times, including a touchdown and a two-point conversion on Saturday.
"Him being able to trust me — that's the main thing. [I'm] just trying to build my foundation now and do whatever I can to help this team win and just make plays when my number is called," Sims said.
If Sims' development continues, he could be a significant contributor in offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's offense, which spreads the defense by often placing five receivers or tight ends on the field. In Lazor's system, which features healthy amounts of motion and shifts designed to get playmakers in space, Tannehill said trust is necessary to successfully run the offense.
"Over time you build the trust that the receiver is going to be there and I'm going to make the right throw," Tannehill said. "That's the biggest thing — trusting the receivers, trusting myself, them trusting me."
Though Sims is still nestled behind starter Charles Clay on the depth chart, coaches and teammates have noticed how much he has improved from this point last year.
Defensive back Brent Grimes said Sims is difficult to cover, and the reason is simple.
"He's big and can run — that's it," Grimes said.
Grimes cautioned that it's still early and the games that count are still more than a month away, but said Sims could become a bigger factor in the offense.
"If you've got those things on your side and you start getting comfortable with the game and knowing where you're supposed to be and you're just playing instead of thinking then it could start to come together for you," Grimes said.
But Sims is used to having high expectations from coaches, teammates and himself.
After three years in East Lansing, Sims was a Second-team All-Big Ten choice by the coaches and media before declaring for the NFL Draft after his junior season.
Sims is now just waiting for his hard work to pan out on the field.
"I've been grinding all offseason. I knew what to expect when Lazor came in with his style of play," Sims said. "I'm going to give my best effort to do whatever I can to make myself fit."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun