Barry Jackson

Here’s what changed Friday in Miami Dolphins’ backup-quarterback battle

Miami Dolphins quarterback David Fales throws in a June practice. Fales is competing for the backup QB job.
Miami Dolphins quarterback David Fales throws in a June practice. Fales is competing for the backup QB job.

Observers at Dolphins training camp on Friday could say something that couldn’t be said much, if at all, the past three months: For one day, Brock Osweiler performed the best of the backup quarterbacks.

David Fales was clearly the best of Miami’s backup quarterbacks in several practices open to reporters in May and June, consistently completing deep balls while Osweiler and Bryce Petty struggled with accuracy.

While Fales was competent during the first training-camp practice on Thursday, Osweiler threw two interceptions, only one of which was his fault.

But on Friday, Osweiler looked the best he has looked in his brief time as a Dolphin, completing well-thrown deep passes to Francis Owusu and Isaiah Ford.

Fales threw a dart to Albert Wilson for a touchdown but also threw an interception to Torry McTyer.

Coach Adam Gase indicated performance in preseason games will weigh heavily in the decision on Ryan Tannehill’s backup.

“It will be interesting to see if one separates himself from the other,” Gase said. “That’s why we’re trying to give both of them an equal amount of reps with different groups so we can get a clean evaluation. Are good things happening when one is in and it’s OK with the other? Sometimes that stuff kind of cleans up for you when you get into the preseason games.”

Fales, 27, said this is the first time he has been given a fair chance to compete for a No. 2 job since the Chicago Bears drafted him in the sixth round in 2014.

He said he re-signed with Miami in March – after playing decently in the Dolphins’ 2017 finale against Buffalo – partly because he was given the assurance that he could compete for the primary backup job.

“I wanted a chance,” he said. “Didn’t want to be in the same situation I had been. Everything [Gase] said to me has always been true. He has never deceived me. He’s always believed in me, too, which is nice when you know the head coach believes in you.”

Fales said his strength is “processing information really fast. When I stop and think about everything, it’s a little too much. I think that’s a strength and a weakness.”

Gase has noticed something else, too: “The arm strength is better than what it’s been. That’s something that has really caught our eye more than anything.”

Gase, who coached Fales in 2016 when he was Chicago’s offensive coordinator, said he noticed improvement from Fales during the 2017 offseason.

“I think when we left training camp, we thought he would be our three but we weren’t keeping three,” Gase said, with now-unemployed Matt Moore and Jay Cutler the two quarterbacks on the active roster to begin last season after Tannehill’s knee injury. “So when [Fales] came back and we kept seeing how he was improving and his arm strength, I noticed the longer we went, the better his arm strength got. He really started doing a good job in the weight room where his core got a lot stronger and that helped his velocity with some of his throws.

“He has a very good presence about him. Whether it be in the pocket, moving around, he can kind of see things some quarterbacks can’t see. That’s something that has caught our eye. … He earned the right to compete for that No. 2 spot.”

As for Osweiler, he declined to discuss his struggles the past two seasons — including a disappointing stint in Houston — and spoke of his appreciation for Gase, who worked with him in Denver several years ago.

“He sets a great culture, and culture is everything in professional sports,” Osweiler said. “Getting an opportunity to work with coach Gase again every day is very special, and I’m making the most of it.”

Osweiler has thrown 20 touchdowns and 21 interceptions the past two seasons, including 15 games for Houston in 2016 and six for Denver last season.

Coaches have been tinkering with his mechanics.

“I’m obviously a taller quarterback,” he said. “I’m 6-7 and with that comes long levers, if you will. It’s almost like a golf swing. The more movement you have, the taller you are, the greater chance for air or a missed throw or a missed swing if you’re golfing. It’s trying to find a consistent throwing motion within being compact.”

Petty, who threw a deflected interception to Quentin Poling on Friday, is a longshot for the backup job.


First-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick said the Dolphins have not yet used a three-safety lineup with him, Reshad Jones, and T.J. McDonald. McDonald continues to open practice with the starters, but Fitzpatrick is getting some first-team work. He said starting is important to him as a rookie.

Ford was on the ground for several minutes with a shoulder injury after his deep-ball catch but said he will be fine, aside from soreness. Center Jake Brendel (calf) was the only player to sit out practice.

A day after Jason Sanders made all seven of his field-goal attempts, the other kicker in camp — Greg Joseph — missed three of seven, including one from 52 yards.

Cornerback Tony Lippett opened team drills with the starters opposite Xavien Howard, a day after Cordrea Tankersley started practice with the first team, opposite Howard.

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