Dolphins plan at quarterback for first pre-season game
Well, sort of.
The NFL preseason is sporting colonoscopy — unavoidable, unpleasant and best enjoyed asleep.
But for quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen to be the Dolphins’ Week 1 starter — which both obviously want — they better treat Thursday night’s exhibition game against the Falcons like the Super Bowl.
Ever since coach Brian Flores named Fitzpatrick, the 15-year-veteran, the competition’s front-runner, the gap has narrowed.
Rosen has either been better or played Fitzpatrick to a draw in every practice since. In the scrimmage, observers finally saw the raw ability that makes him such an intriguing prospect.
Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, has regressed to the mean. He’s still a pro’s pro, but his limitations are well-established and probably won’t ever change.
Still, he has done enough for Flores to name him Thursday’s starter. That’s no surprise.
Where there might be some drama: When and how they use Rosen.
Will it be with the backups, which has been almost exclusively the case since he joined the team?
Or will his improved play warrant first-team snaps?
We asked Flores that precise question Tuesday.
His response: “I would see Fitz going with the ones, as we’ve done really the entire training camp. That could change. We have a meeting tonight and we’ll talk about it. Josh has done a good job. Again, the preseason games will tell us. That’s just another part of the evaluation. I think it’s a good competition. That’s what it is. That’s how I see it.”
So there you go.
Fitzpatrick will get all first-team snaps. Unless Rosen gets a few, too.
Reason enough to tune in Thursday night, no?
Or maybe even go out to the game (tickets are available on the secondary market for as little as $6).
Usually, first and fourth preseason games are the least relevant.
But this is Flores’ first game as a head coach, and he intends to get the most out of it.
So veterans will play. And maybe more than we’re used to seeing in the exhibition opener.
“Everybody’s got to be ready to play for an extended period of time,” Flores said. “We’ll see how the game goes. ... There’s no, you’re in three plays and you’re out. There’s no set parameters, as far as the substitution process from that standpoint. They all know it could be three plays, it could be 30 plays, it could be 50 plays. We’ll see how the game goes.”
Flores added: “If they go well, maybe we keep them going, keep the momentum going. Maybe we just want to take them out. Maybe they’re slated for 15 snaps and three of those snaps are bad, and I don’t want to see it anymore. That happens too. It’s case by case. We have a plan. Hopefully, we stick to that, but things happen. Things change in this game.”
A few players we are almost certain to not see: Chase Allen, Jakeem Grant, Zach Sterup, Reshad Jones, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Woodard, Cordrea Tankersley, Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan.
All are dealing with injuries of varying severity.
Yes, that includes three of the Dolphins’ top six linebackers. And with Mike Hull out for the season, there will be a lot of front-seven defenders playing Thursday who are perfect strangers to most Dolphins fans.
So this might a career-defining opportunity for guys like Sam Eguavoen, Tre’ Watson and Terrill Hanks, who should all see the field early in the game.
The secondary is a bit more established, but with Jones and Rowe sidelined, Nik Needham and Jomal Wiltz will have plenty of time to prove they belong.
Thursday also brings our first real chance to see converted cornerback Bobby McCain at safety in a game.
“How am I liking it? I like it,” McCain said. “You can control, you can see the ball out, you can see the ball coming from the quarterback. You can make plays at the end of the day in this defense, once we get more in depth in game plans, and playing different teams, and playing different people — it will all change.”
That might as well be the slogan for the 2019 Dolphins