Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick did not see any tears in rookies eyes in the huddle
The quarterback competition goes on the road next week. It gets a new venue as the Dolphins practice with and against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday and Wednesday before the second preseason game at Raymond James Stadium on Friday night.
And while everything will look and feel new to practically everyone in the Dolphins organization, Ryan Fitzpatrick will be quite comfortable, thank you.
He’ll be going back to the town where he lived the past two years. He’s going to be seeing, greeting and facing former teammates. And he’s even going to practice against a defense he should be intimately familiar with, despite its many quirks and tricks and blitzes.
So next week could be Ryan Fitzpatrick’s time.
He’s going to have a significant advantage over Josh Rosen as the two continue to vie for the Dolphins starting quarterback job.
He’s going to get perhaps his best chance to create distance between himself and the younger Rosen. It’s all laid out for Fitzpatrick to be at his best and put the past 10 days of uneven performances to bed.
“I think I’ve come to really enjoy the joint practices,” Fitzpatrick said following his short stint in the Dolphins’ preseason-opener against Atlanta. “And going to Tampa and doing that, going against a different defense, different scheme is good.
“I’m really excited about it,” Fitzpatrick added later.
He should be excited. Because while the Dolphins will be on the road, Fitzpatrick will be feeling quite at home. He played for Tampa Bay the past two seasons. The practice facility the two teams will share next week is familiar. The town also is obviously familiar.
And Fitzpatrick, who started 10 games over two years there, is something of folk hero in Tampa.
“In general, the Tampa community really embraced me and my family, and it’s a place that’s near and dear to our hearts, so I’m excited to go back just to see a lot of familiar faces and friends,” Fitzpatrick said. “And then the team aspect of it as well, it’s going to be fun to see some of those guys and even Todd Bowles, who was my head coach with the Jets being the defensive coordinator, it will be great to catch up with him.
“So yeah, I’m excited for it for a lot of different reasons, but certainly the human aspect of it I’m excited for that.”
The human aspect is interesting. The football aspect is more important. Bowles has a league-wide reputation for running one of the most complex defensive schemes any quarterback can face. It threatens to attack from any spot and often multiple spots.
“I know he has a lot of good blitzes,” Fitzpatrick said. “He’s got a great scheme. Very aggressive.”
And Fitzpatrick is probably quite familiar with it all. Because the veteran played two years under Bowles in New York in 2015-16. He saw the Bowles defense every year in training camp, and practices, and scrimmages.
So Fitzpatrick’s been there and done that with the defense he’s about to face next week.
That is an advantage Rosen doesn’t have.
Rosen, in fact, has spent much of the past few months simply trying to catch up to the manner Fitzpatrick can recognize and dissect any defense.
“The way Fitz in our meeting room can break down a defense and how quickly he can make comments on where everyone is, where the ball should go, is pretty impressive,” Rosen said.
Rosen is suddenly acknowledging himself as something of a gunslinger -- no idea where that came from but it’s happening. So he’s trying to raise his mental abilities on the field to where Fitzpatrick has them based on 14 years of NFL experience.
“I think if I can kind of hedge that gunslinger attitude a little bit and put a little bit more thought into it, I think I could develop pretty nicely,” Rosen said.
That’s great, but to bridge that gap against a defense Fitzpatrick has faced multiple times will be difficult.
So, again, advantage Fitzpatrick.
And this: Fitzpatrick needs to take advantage because, whether anyone admits it or not, his performance has kind of flatlined since that fateful moment coach Brian Flores anointed him the leader in the quarterback competition.
Fitzpatrick didn’t have a great practice week after that announcement. Didn’t have a great scrimmage. And his work in the preseason-opener -- brief as it was -- didn’t exactly awe anyone.
So regardless of whether Fitzpatrick remains the starter working with the first-team offense next week -- which has not been settled -- or he’s sharing starter snaps with Rosen, this is about to be an big opportunity.
It’s Ryan Fitzpatrick’s grand opportunity.