Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores may have to go back to the drawing board in his quarterback competition.
Wily veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick had an opportunity to seize the Dolphins’ starting quarterback job outright from Josh Rosen, but a poor outing Thursday night leading Miami’s first-team offense may have Flores second-guessing his initial option in the competition.
Especially once Rosen finally entered the game for the second offensive series in the second half, leading the Dolphins down the field for a 99-yard touchdown drive against Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night in Miami’s 22-7 win.
Fitzpatrick’s first four drives of the game netted only 10 yards for the Dolphins offense, all ending quickly with punts to the other side of Hard Rock Stadium.
No drive lasted longer than five plays. No drive gained more than 25 yards. But, two drives resulted in field goals. The Dolphins gained only 47 yards in the first half, where Fitzpatrick completed only 5-of-11 passes for just 33 yards and a 52.5 passer rating.
That was until Fitzpatrick turned in his best drive of the preseason to start the third quarter: He was 7-of-7 for 93 yards, leading an 11-play, 86-yard drive (there were some negative runs, too) that ended with a short touchdown pass to running back Mark Walton.
The drive came once the Jaguars inserted their reserves into the game, giving Fitzpatrick a final stat line — 12-of-18 passes for 126 yards with a 105.3 rating— leaving a glossier impression on his outing overall.
Despite Fitzpatrick’s uneven performance in the third preseason game — typically considered a dress rehearsal for first-team offenses and defenses before the regular-season opener — it’s unclear what Rosen would have done in the same situation.
When Rosen entered the game toward the end of the third quarter — against the same caliber defense — he began at the 1-yard line. After three short runs, he broke free for an 11-yard run for a first down. He escaped pressure managed by the second-team offensive line to find tight end Chris Myraick for an 8-yard gain.
Rosen’s best pass during the drive came at the beginning of the fourth quarter, stepping into the pocket, veering toward the right side, and beaming a 39-yard pass to receiver Isaiah Ford that reached the 15-yard line.
Rosen later scrambled for a 14-yard gain down the left side, setting up running back Patrick Laird for a 5-yard touchdown run to culminate the drive. He completed 4-of-5 passes for 52 yards during the drive, with a 110.0 rating.
More importantly, it gave Rosen another slight uptick in the quarterback competition despite Flores’ devotion to Fitzpatrick since offseason workouts this spring.
While Flores has nitpicked Rosen’s shortcomings through two preseason games, Fitzpatrick should earn his fair share of criticism following his performance against the Jaguars.
The Dolphins offensive line continued to struggle as it has all preseason. It may have played without standout left tackle Laremy Tunsil, a healthy scratch. But Jaguars rookie defensive end/outside linebacker Josh Allen — the seventh pick in April’s draft — was unquestionably the best player on the field on Thursday night, wreaking havoc on Miami’s protection.
Allen and Jaguars standout Myles Jack made it difficult for Dolphins rookie guards Michael Deiter, a third-round pick from Wisconsin, and Shaq Calhoun, undrafted out of Mississippi State, while third-year veteran Jesse Davis struggled as he continues his transition from right guard to right tackle.
On the Dolphins’ best drive of the first half — featuring Fitzpatrick’s longest pass, a 28-yard completion to tight end Mike Gesicki, aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty that allowed them to reach the 9-yard line — Miami failed to score a touchdown.
Instead, Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins offense finished the drive 10 yards behind the closest they could reach the end zone, spoiling cornerback Eric Rowe’s interception of Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles on the previous drive. Kicker Jason Sanders kicked a 40-yard field goal, the first of his two conversions to get Miami on the board.
Fitzpatrick also could have been sharper. The Dolphins’ first drive was a three-and-out, featuring three incompletions: an overthrown pass to the left side on first down, a broken up pass to tight end Durham Smythe, and a miss on the outside to rookie receiver Preston Williams.
On a later drive, Fitzpatrick had Williams streaking past Jaguars standout cornerback Jalen Ramsey, but he underthrew the pass.
Along with Fitzpatrick’s miscues, the Dolphins offense was unable to shake starting running back Kalen Ballage free during the first half. Ballage, starting in place of injured running back Kenyan Drake, finished the first half with 12 carries for 17 yards. His longest run went for 11 yards.
The Dolphins trailed the Jaguars, 7-6, at halftime, following a Jacksonville touchdown from Foles, Jacksonville’s new starting quarterback, to wide receiver Dede Westbrook, who scored with ease with safety Bobby McCain in coverage.
The Dolphins lost McCain for the game after he suffered a right shoulder injury shortly before halftime.
The Dolphins will conclude the preseason with a road game against the New Orleans Saints next Thursday. Miami opens the regular season at home, hosting the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 8.
The final preseason game will give Flores and the Dolphins another morsel of insight to which quarterback will give the team its best chance this season.