When Adam Gase perused the lengthy list of free agent quarterbacks this spring, there wasn’t a single one he saw that he considered better — or in many cases, even as good as — David Fales, who had thrown just 48 regular-season passes in four years since the Chicago Bears drafted him in the sixth round in 2014.
When the offseason program ended Thursday, Gase wasn’t ready to name a front-runner in the battle to back up Ryan Tannehill.
But this much is clear: In practices open to the media, Fales — who was third on the depth chart last year — has been clearly the best of the three contenders for the No. 2 QB job, outplaying both Brock Osweiler and Bryce Petty.
And from all indications, Fales also has done good work in practices that were closed to the media, too.
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Fales lofted a perfectly thrown deep ball to Jakeem Grant for a touchdown Thursday, and Gase noted that was about the fifth long connection between the two of them in 12 offseason practices.
Fales, on that throw to Grant, did good work reading the coverage, saw the safety “bite down and went over the top,” Gase said.
Teammates have been impressed.
“His deep ball has been remarkable this offseason, between him and Jakeem and [tight end Mike] Gesicki,” tight end MarQueis Gray said. “They’ve been hooking up a lot.”
Gray also likes how Fales gets the ball out quickly.
Beyond the deep ball to Grant, Fales’ second-most impressive throw Thursday was a bullet on a crossing route to Albert Wilson for a 20-plus yard game.
The Dolphins like how Fales played in the season finale against Buffalo, when he completed 29 of 43 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown, with his one interception created by a receiver’s mistake.
Osweiler, meanwhile, has struggled with accuracy through four weeks of practices. On Thursday, he threw a poor pass that linebacker Chase Allen nearly intercepted. Petty has been up and down.
Still, when Gase was asked if the backup job is Fales’ to lose, he was careful in his response.
“Right now, I don’t want to go into that because I don’t have a great answer,” he said. “I want to see guys playing in preseason games, how training camp goes.”
None of the three backup quarterbacks was made available by the Dolphins for interviews this offseason.
As for starter Ryan Tannehill, he completed a solid offseason with a deep touchdown pass to DeVante Parker and a 40-yard TD pass to Danny Amendola.
Gase believes this roster is better at absorbing the playbook than the previous one.
“We have thrown a lot of things at them and guys are able to take it from the video room to the practice field and execute it,” Gase said. “That’s been a really big improvement for us. I see a lot of guys doing things the way we need them done."
▪ Gesicki came on strong this week.
“Gesicki has had some really good days,” Gase said. “We had a two minute drill [Wednesday] and things in the red zone he was able to take advantage of a couple matchups he had; he’s aggressive to the ball, can make plays. He’s a big man that can run and has really good hands. It’s been fun to watch him develop.”
▪ Gray said it’s unusual for a team to enter training camp in the predicament that the Dolphins are in — with a handful of players having a chance to start at tight end. A.J. Derby, Gray, Gesicki, Durham Smythe and Gavin Escobar all got work with the first team. The sixth tight end, Thomas Duarte, has been out the past week with a shoulder injury.
“It’s my sixth year, and every year I’ve been in competition with somebody,” Gray said. “I either had a head guy that has been assigned or they brought in some all-star guy, like they did last year [with Julius Thomas]. For us to have an open spot this year is pretty rare.”
Gase believes tight end will sort itself out: “We have to figure out who’s playing.”
▪ Gase said there’s no position on his defense that greatly concerns him, though questions remain with the third starting linebacker job (Stephone Anthony has had a lot of first-team work), defensive tackle in the post-Ndamukong Suh era and the third cornerback job (among Cordrea Tankersley, Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain).
Asked who has stood out among those three corners, Gase didn’t answer directly but said Lippett, off Achilles surgery last August, must make sure “he’s as close to 100 percent as he can be for training camp. Everyday will be a learning experience for all those guys because they’re all so young. They understand we’re going to play the best guy.”
▪ Asked about Jarvis Landry’s recent shots at Tannehill, Gray said: It’s kind of hard for him to say something like that…. [But] Tannehill’s our guy, he’s our leader…. We wish Jarvis the best.” Tannehill wasn’t made available for comment.