Armando Salguero

Miami Dolphins not yet ready to fully endorse Josh Rosen for first-team practice reps

Brian Flores spent a lot of time during his conference call with reporters on Saturday explaining -- and in some places it felt like he was debating -- his opinion on how to handle the quarterback repetitions for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen.

Fitzpatrick, the 14-year journeyman, has taken practically all the first-team snaps in practice and in a scrimmage during training camp and then, because it’s logical, played with the starters in Miami’s preseason-opener.

Rosen, the young project the Dolphins hope to groom into a starter, has taken practically all the second-team reps (let’s just stipulate to using the shortened football term to give my typing a break) and played with Miami backups against Atlanta Falcons backups in the preseason game.

Rosen seemed to do fine against Atlanta in completing 13 of 20 passes, although he had an interception, so “some good, some bad,” Flores said. And Fitzpatrick got a sweat going in his five throws while nothing went exceptionally well nor distressingly wrong.

Except the entire Earth wants to see Rosen get some first-team reps and a chance to play with and against better players. Because even Dolphins fans in Mongolia want to see if Rosen is a possible answer to Miami’s decades long search for a great quarterback.

But Flores is now wedged up against a door, holding back the Mongolians and the rest of us because he’s either not ready try Rosen with starters or not ready to announce he will. And the way he’s holding everyone off is by saying it doesn’t matter if a quarterback gets first- or second-team reps.

Which, by the way, it absolutely matters.

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Flores says he understands it’s logical to think that way and admits you can better tell if the passer is throwing successfully in tight spaces against top defensive backs.

But the coach insists he can get just as good an evaluation on a quarterback’s technique and fundamentals and ability to operate the offense, with all the intricacies that involves, regardless of whether that quarterback is playing against top competition or not. Regardless of whether that quarterback is surrounded by his best teammates or not.

“That’s the way I see it,” Flores said. “... But from a decision-making standpoint at the quarterback position, first-team, second-team, I get what everybody’s saying. But if the ball needs to be checked down, it needs to be checked down versus the eighth group.

“If he can fire the ball into split safety coverage into the turkey hole versus the ones or the twos, we can see about making those decisions then. If you’re watching, you get a good evaluation of a guy. That’s how I see the game at the quarterback position. I guess other people see it differently, but that’s how I see it.”

And this is what I see behind this convoluted first-team, second-team narrative:

The Dolphins have been seeing something in Rosen that’s so far made them uncomfortable giving him a chance with the starters. Simple as that.

Maybe it’s his decision-making, which was questionable in the preseason game. Or maybe it’s his confidence, which perhaps they’re trying to build so that he doesn’t fall off a table if he struggles against better players his first time out.

I’ve no idea what exactly this reining in of Rosen is about. But it is something. Because it’s happened.

A real quarterback competition gives both competitors equal chances and challenges. This quarterback competition has not done that so far.

If you’ve got a guy you think is ascending and you want him to grow, you let him compete against the best so he can either become one of the best or show you he doesn’t have what it takes. If you don’t have that ascending guy, you hold him. You let him get comfortable with the reserves.

This playing with what one can learn about first- or second-team reps is nothing more than fog in which we must not lose the bottom line fact: The Dolphins so far don’t believe Rosen has earned a promotion to starter or even starter reps in practice.

It’s the exact opposite of throwing a player in a pool to see whether he sinks or swims -- which the Dolphins have done, by the way, with both their rookie starting guards.

The curious thing about this is that neither Flores nor anyone else will be able to hold back the tide on eventually throwing Rosen in that pool. Regardless of how good an evaluation coaches think they can get on Rosen when he’s working with backups, eventually they’ll admit the truth:

They won’t know definitively about Rosen until they see him play with the best against the best. Because anything else is just conjecture.

But, all good, let’s discuss the fog and not the actual road we’re on.

“I think we’ll continue to split reps, you know, in a way we can evaluate all three quarterbacks,” Flores said. “First team, second team, I think people give more value to that stuff than, really, I do. But we’re going to try to give reps to all three guys.”

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