Josh Rosen’s debut with the Miami Dolphins had many more encouraging moments that suggest he can be a good NFL quarterback than it had disappointments — even if that bad decision deep in his own territory that led to an interception kind of lingers in the memory banks.
“Obviously, I don’t like the turnover by Josh, and I think overall, we need to do a better job with our fundamentals, technique,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said.
The interception “was pretty bad,” Rosen said, “in the sense of like my read told me to go here and I didn’t. It wasn’t a ball kind of pick, it was a read kind of pick.”
So this is a work in progress.
But forget that work in progress. In fact, stop that work in progress. Because all the work feels like it’s in vain while Rosen is forced to play — no, wrong word — survive behind an offensive line that kind of stinks.
And that’s what he had to do much of Thursday night in Miami’s 34-27 victory over Atlanta in the preseason opener.
Rosen played with the second-team Miami offense that happens to include Miami’s second-team offensive line in the second, third and into the fourth quarter. And that unit was horrible against the Atlanta reserves much of the evening.
Rosen was sacked twice in the second quarter by a defensive line that included ... wait, let me reach for the Atlanta roster because I’ve never heard of these guys: Oh yeah, Justin Zimmer from Ferris State was in there. And so was Austin Larkin, a first-year player who played for the mighty San Antonio Comandeers of the AAF last in the spring.
Rosen threw the football 12 times in the second quarter. I counted him getting hit four times and that was in addition to the two sacks he absorbed.
Rosen was hurried and that forced some incompletions. And at least two of Rosen’s completions happened when he flung the ball even as he was wrapped in the arms of a defender -- which Flores didn’t love.
“A couple of times there I thought those were a little dicey,” he said. “I think we want to play smarter than that.”
He finished the second quarter 6 of 12 for 93 yards and the interception. The quarterback rating that accompanies those statistics is a troubling 41.3.
But I’m not troubled. Not about Rosen, anyway.
Because I don’t feel like I got a good look at Rosen playing quarterback for the Dolphins that quarter. I feel like I mostly got a look at Rosen experiencing a replay of his rookie year in Arizona, when he was exposed behind an offensive line that was manned mostly by backup talent.
And that was not a good look or a good result. And it got Rosen traded.
And now we’re repeating that failed formula for making Rosen a viable NFL quarterback?
Yes, I know this was the first preseason game. There’s three more to play. There are more practices to see.
But Rosen hasn’t taken more than maybe a handful of snaps behind the Dolphins starting offensive line since training camp opened. He’s been the backup to Ryan Fitzpatrick. And while the starting quarterback has played with the starting offensive line, Rosen has done his work almost exclusively behind backup linemen.
So I have a simple question: How can you know if you’ve got a solution to Miami’s decades-long quarterback problem if you don’t solve the offensive line problem in front of him first?
In the second half the backup Dolphins line rallied a little bit. Rosen got more time. He didn’t get blasted every time he dropped to pass. And, amazingly, he looked much, much better.
In the third quarter Rosen completed 6 of 6 passes for 93 yards and led the team to a touchdown.
So did Rosen get suddenly way better? Or was he better because he had viable blocking in front of him?
I think I know the answer but it’s time to remove all doubt.
It is without doubt that Rosen was Miami’s better quarterback this game, as he completed 13 of 20 passes for 191 yards and that interception. Fitzpatrick threw only five passes, completed two, and finished with 20 passing yards. This happened while Fitzpatrick played with a better offensive line but also against a better Atlanta defense that included several starters.
But Fitzpatrick’s performance is not the point. The point is what might Rosen have done behind the better line and against the better competition?
It feels like it’s time to find out. It feels like Josh Rosen needs a chance to play with Miami’s starting offense soon — like next week in dual practices with Tampa Bay and against the Buccaneers in the second preseason game of the year.
Too early? Not smart?
Flores didn’t seem to have much of an appetite for the idea immediately after Thursday’s game. He spoke of the team’s rotation being a good one.
Except the preseason is not going to last much longer. Most teams select their starters by the third preseason game. If the Dolphins are going to do this — and Flores said he’d like to do that in a perfect world — then it’s logical we see Rosen play with the starting unit next week.
Otherwise the quarterback competition that the Dolphins swear is legitimate would feel rigged.
It’s time to remove the doubt. It’s time to put Rosen behind Miami’s most stable offensive line. It’s time to give Rosen work with the Dolphins’ starting offense.