Dolphins DE Charles Harris is the ‘last man standing’ after an exodus of veteran defensive ends
This quarterback competition the Miami Dolphins have been nursing since April is down to its final few days before a decision is made whether Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen will start the regular-season opener against the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 8.
And this thing is nip and tuck.
But for the wrong reason.
The reason the Dolphins still don’t have an obvious winner of their quarterback competition is that neither Rosen nor Fitzpatrick has won the job. By that I mean no one has stepped up. No one has grabbed the position and made it obvious it belongs to him.
Neither guy has done enough to merit being called the starter. At least not yet.
And while it’s not too late for this to happen, it’s definitely no longer early in the process. The Dolphins want to come out of Thursday’s preseason game against Jacksonville, the third preseason game of four, knowing who their starting quarterback is going to be Week 1.
Because starting quarterbacks and most starters typically do not play the final preseason game.
So if the Dolphins are going to come out of Thursday’s game with a strong indication who the starter should be, either Rosen or Fitzpatrick has to do something the next four days he has failed to do the previous four months:
Deliver a performance worthy of being named the guy.
Do something to earn it.
Rosen this preseason has completed 23 of 38 passes (60.5 percent completion) for 293 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception. Fitzpatrick has completed 5 of 14 passes for 40 yards with neither a touchdown nor an interception.
Rosen’s quarterback rating is a substandard 73.7. Fitzpatrick’s quarterback rating is a horrible 44.4.
If this were boxing we would be watching these guys throwing weak jabs at each other when everyone came to see someone deliver a knock out punch.
The Tampa Bay preseason game was a disappointment to me in watching both players.
Dolphins coach Brian Flores said Rosen “played well.” And he said Fitzpatrick “went in there and did a good job.”
Neither got the offense in the end zone. Neither put together a drive of note.
Rosen had an opportunity to throw a TD pass in the first half on a fourth-and-goal from the 2 yard line. But he double clutched and then skipped the pass to an open Isaiah Ford in the end zone.
Rosen’s most impressive throw of the game was a 21-yard completion to tight end Durham Smythe in the second quarter when he got pressured off the left side, avoided the pressure, got outside the pocket and threw a perfect pass while on the run.
But he followed that with a terrible throw in the hands of Tampa Bay defensive back that no Dolphins player had a chance to catch. Luckily the Bucs are terrible and the apparent interception was dropped.
Fitzpatrick was also unremarkable. On the first series of the second half, as his helmet radio seemed to be malfunctioning, Fitzpatrick’s arm also betrayed him on a completed pass. Yes, a completed pass.
On third down he threw a completion to Nick O’Leary who had a defender beaten. But the pass did not lead O’Leary, but rather was slightly behind him and late. So as O’Leary hesitated for the throw, the defender caught him from behind and tackled him before he could reach the first down marker.
A pass thrown earlier and ahead of O’Leary would have given him a chance to gain a first down and extend the drive.
That pass was statistically a positive play for Fitzpatrick. But it wasn’t the optimal or elite throw. It was not a winning football throw.
And we have seen precious few of those from either quarterback so far this preseason. And we’ve seen no consistency from either quarterback this preseason.
So, yes, they’re neck-and-neck in this quarterback competition. It’s close.
But it’s close because no one has been good enough to separate from inconsistent and unimpressive. At least not yet.
By the way, if the worst happens and neither quarterback gains an advantage, my guess is Fitzpatrick would start the opener based on his superior leadership skills and greater experience over Rosen.
But as I’ve written multiple times since training camp opened ... Expect Fitzpatrick and Rosen to start games for the Miami Dolphins in 2019.
Some Mando notations from the game and in talking to folks:
▪ Linebacker Sam Equavoen has had moments of being really impressive and he definitely had that in starting against Tampa Bay.
He had a tackle for loss on first series. He forced a fumble and that turnover led to Miami’s first field goal. And he had another tackle for loss in the second quarter.
So excellent work there.
But he needs to keep improving his tackling. He missed a tackle as Tampa ran the ball for a first down when it was backed up to their own goal line.
▪ Defensive end Charles Harris had his most active and impressive game since being drafted in the first round of the 2017 draft. And, yes, it was preseason but it’s a good sign.
Harris rushed from the left and right side. He used a four-point and two point stance. He had 1 1/2 sacks with the full sack coming on a three-man rush when he beat the tackle with a speed rush.
None of this is a negative. All very, very good. If he stacks another good outing atop this on Thursday, Harris will surely raise his confidence level — just in time for the regular season.
▪ Linebacker Jerome Baker had two potential sacks on Jameis Winston but didn’t get either because he could not bring the QB down. He needs to finish better. It’s not about getting there. It’s about getting there and finishing.
▪ One of the staples of the New England offense the past 15 years or so has been the idea of going quickly to catch the defense on its heels around the goal line.
That means running a play that perhaps gets the team inside the 3-yard line and then getting quickly to the line of scrimmage to run the next play before the defense is fully set. The Dolphins, which basically run the New England offense, tried that against Tampa in the first quarter in a fourth-and-2 situation.
The Buccaneers had to use a timeout to get ready for the play because of this strategy.
And, yes, the Dolphins will be doing this every time they get in this type of situation to gain an advantage over any unprepared defense.
▪ Preston Williams had four catches in the first preseason game and everyone celebrated that from the rookie wide receiver. He got a chance to work with starters during the week of dual practices and had some drops.
Then he had three drops in the game. And all those drops were costly.
Williams had a third-down drop that killed the first drive.
He had a third-down drop in the second quarter at the 20-yard line.
And he had a drop at the Tampa Bay 18 yard line with 16 seconds to play in the first half.
So does this mean Williams isn’t the prospect he was before the game? No. But four catches in one game followed by three drops the next game shows inconsistency and perhaps some nerves and perhaps a need to get on the jugs machine in practice this week.
▪ I love that the Dolphins played rookie guards Michael Deiter, the third-round pick, and Shaq Calhoun, an undrafted free agent, into the third quarter. They need the work.
Neither was awesome the first game. Both showed improvement the second game.
Both need a lot more work.
Deiter gave up two sacks. The first happened because right tackle Jesse Davis got beat off the snap and when Rosen stepped up, he basically ran into the man who had beaten Deiter. The second was Deiter simply getting beat with speed.
Calhoun gave up a sack to Demone Harris in the third quarter.
Deiter is a way better run-blocker than pass blocker at this stage. Calhoun is not quite as developed as Deiter and needs significant work on both his pass protection and run blocking. Both need to improve their balance.
It’s a work in progress with these two young players.