The Dolphins’ second exhibition game was typical of the preseason – a lot of ugly.
Unfortunately, Josh Rosen, in his first game action for Miami with the starting unit, couldn’t rise above his offensive line’s shortcomings or his own inconsistency to elevate his case for the starting quarterback job.
Rosen wasn’t all bad or all to blame for the inability to get the Dolphins in the end zone in six possessions during the first half at Tampa Bay.
He also wasn’t anything special.
That’s in line with what has been apparent all along, through offseason workouts, training camp and a week ago playing with the second team against the Falcons.
An extended opportunity Friday with the first unit didn’t change the equation. It reaffirmed it.
Elite talent shows early
A million years ago Dan Marino stepped on the field and the immediate reaction was, wow! Most of the elite NFL quarterbacks since then have given the indication quickly.
Some dropped balls blunted Rosen’s cause Friday. But on fourth down at the Tampa Bay 2, he had Isaiah Ford open in the end zone and threw a sinker that didn’t get there.
That was the time to seize the moment. It eluded him.
Rosen has shown the talent to be a better NFL quarterback than his predecessor, Ryan Tannehill. He has an arm, instincts and pocket presence that Tannehill lacked.
But he’s done nothing to suggest the Dolphins should hand him the keys to the franchise and end their quest for a quarterback to lead them into the future. That remains top priority for next year’s draft.
Nonetheless, Rosen should be the starter going into this season. Because what are you going to learn from 36-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick leading a team that’s a babe in the woods?
We’re not seeing any of that old Fitzmagic anyway. Fitz’s one eye-opening moment from his limited preseason action has been bowling over a Buccaneers DB.
Gotta love Fitzpatrick, but his gritty leadership is not taking this team to the playoffs. He’s an ideal backup and example for Rosen to follow.
Youth shows on offense
This is a developmental season. This is the time to find out what they have in Rosen and see if he can grow with the other youthful components of the offense.
Overall, the most encouraging sign from Friday’s game was how well the defense played, even with notables such as Xavien Howard and Reshad Jones sitting out.
Not surprising, considering defense is coach Brian Flores’ forte. It furthered the hope that Flores and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham can produce a collective greater than its components.
There were four sacks and a forced fumble. Rookie Christian Wilkins was solid up front and second-year linebacker Jerome Baker was a force on the blitz – Baker needs to be better at finishing his chances, though.
No point in starting Fitzpatrick
Still, the intrigue circles back to the quarterbacks.
Difficult to understand Flores’ thinking in saying Fitzpatrick will likely start week against Jacksonville. Usually the third game of preseason is a dress rehearsal for the starting unit.
Of course, every coach wants to believe he’s chasing a championship. If the Dolphins were in that position this season, Fitzpatrick, the experienced hand, would be the safer and logical choice.
Asked about the intangibles of grit and leadership that are Fitzpatrick’s strengths, Flores said, “Yeah, it plays into the evaluation, but at the end of the day it’s about production on the field.
“[Fitzpatrick] had a good scramble, made a couple good throws. Josh [Rosen] made a couple good throws, Jake [Rudock] made some good throws and they made some not so good decisions. It’s all a part of the evaluations.”
For a team looking beyond this season, the only way to truly evaluate Rosen is to give him a chance to flop or fly in the regular season.
If they go with Fitzpatrick, it means they’ve already ruled out Rosen.
Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns
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