By: Christian Chappell and Kayla Morton
The preseason is in full effect with the first two weeks of the unofficial NFL season completed. That being said, the Miami Dolphins still have a number of position battles still going on for the regular season. Head coach Brian Flores has eyes out there trying to get the best possible starting roster he can.
What’s going on?
Ryan Fitzpatrick has been named the starter for Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, in what Flores views as a regular season dress rehearsal. However, Josh Rosen started last week and has played more series and snaps than Fitzpatrick this preseason. Additionally, an injury to starting running back Kenyan Drake and a healthy scratch for Kalen Ballage in the same game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rose a few eyebrows.
The preseason is no time to get hopes up, seeing as it generally has little to no indication of what the regular season will hold. The Dolphins sit at 1-1 after a high-scoring, back and forth affair against the Falcons week one, and a low-scoring, last second loss last week against the Buccaneers.
Rosen saw the field for a good portion of the night against Atlanta. He finished the game with the fifth-highest grade among the Dolphins. Rosen completed 13 passes on 20 attempts, racking up 191 yards and a 75.2 QB rating. Additionally, he also threw one interception, deep in the Miami zone, but the train to greatness always has a few stops along the way. In game two, Rosen’s play slowed down some as he only went 10-for-18 with 102 yards against Tampa Bay. The Dolphins ended up falling short to the Buccaneers, 16-14 on a last second field goal.
“I think he has to continue to improve on the things that he’s done well and then the things that he hasn’t done as well. We need to see improvements there. He can’t take as many sacks as he’s taken in practice and games. We’ve talked about that,” Flores said about Rosen. “He has to step up in the pocket. He has to have command of the offense. I think those things are very important at this position. He’s got to get the ball out quicker. He has to do all of those things. And I would say the same is said for ‘Fitz’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick) and Jake (Rudock). They have to do all of these things better. At the end of the day, it’s about our offense moving the ball and putting points on the board.”
Fitzpatrick hasn’t had a beautiful preseason either. He went just 2-for-5 in the preseason opener after being named the starter and 3-for-9 against Tampa Bay. Furthermore, while some could speculate that Flores and the coaching staff are reserving Fitzpatrick for the regular season, truth be told that he is far from being named the official starter in Flores’ book.
“We’ll make those decisions as a staff and the input will be primarily from our staff, from (General Manager) Chris (Grier), (Vice President of Football Administration) Brandon (Shore) and the personnel staff. Like always, we’ll do what we think is best for the team.”
Running back questions
Furthermore, the running back competition could end up becoming a fierce one for the Dolphins. With Drake and Ballage out for Miami on Thursday, Patrick Laird made an appearance. The young talent received one more carry in the game against Tampa Bay than he did in the game against Atlanta. He also got 27 more yards with it, going for 74 yards on 13 carries in the two games so far this preseason. With word coming on a lengthy suspension for RB Mark Walton, the team might see Laird as the official backup in week one of the regular season, according to multiple sources.
The team’s run game as a whole saw slight improvement over the last week with the team’s rushing total going from 96 yards in the game against the Falcons to 118 yards in the game against the Buccaneers.
“Well, we’re going to have put to somebody out there. It’ll be a real look for someone. As far as our evaluation, we can only evaluate the guys who are out there. If they’re not out there, we can’t evaluate them. I know guys are working extremely hard to get back into the game, whether it’s Kiko (Alonso), Reshad (Jones) or whoever else you may mention,” Flores said. “We’re going to have 11 (players) out there. I promise you that. All we can do is evaluate the guys who are out there. We’ve got 90 guys on the roster and each guy is competing and trying to make this team. If they get an opportunity, they’ve got to take advantage of it. There’s nothing we can do about the injuries. These guys are trying to get back and we can only evaluate the guys who are out there.”
Shifted game plan
In what was expected to be a third preseason game dress rehearsal, that mindset will likely be shifted with the amount of injuries the team currently holds. That being said, like Flores said, if the players aren’t out there they can’t be evaluated. That brings Drake and Ballage into question AND how much the coaching staff has truly evaluated Fitzpatrick and Rosen.