DAVIE — Preston Williams’ expression immediately brightened Monday at the mention of veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hell-bent dash to the end zone the previous day in Buffalo.
Fitzpatrick capped his 11-yard touchdown run by lowering his right shoulder and plowing into the final defender to cross the goal line.
“We believe in Fitz. We love Fitz,” said Williams, the rookie wide receiver. “He’s a hard-nosed quarterback.”
Six games into the season, the Dolphins still don’t have a win. But it is clear the young team has found a leader to rally behind in Fitzpatrick.
Fitz energizes young teammates
The easy-going 36-year-old quarterback came off the bench the previous week against Washington to direct two touchdown drives in a comeback that fell just short in a 17-16 near miss.
Sunday, Fitzpatrick started for the first time since Week 2 and had the Dolphins leading 14-9 in the second half before throwing an interception that provided the Bills impetus for a 31-21 victory.
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Fitzpatrick’s touchdown gallop cut the margin to three points with 1:45 remaining before the Bills returned an onsides kick attempt for the clinching touchdown.
But Williams said the difference has been profound over the past five quarters since Fitzpatrick replaced second-year quarterback Josh Rosen.
“Energy, great leadership,” Williams said of Fitzpatrick. “Being a 14-, 15-year vet, just keeping everybody positive. Knowing that we’re a young team, Fitz is one of the only veterans here. We’re just taking his wisdom and knowledge and spreading [it] over all of us. We need that.”
Williams leads receivers
Williams, undrafted out Colorado State, has quickly become a go-to-receiver for both quarterbacks. He leads the team with 23 catches for 314 yards, a 13.7-yard average, and one touchdown.
But his fumble after a catch in the fourth quarter figured prominently in the Bills’ comeback Sunday.
Williams is a big target at 6 feet 5, and his talent has been apparent since offseason practices and training camp.
He acknowledged it has been a learning process. Early on there were some dropped passes.
“The game is slowing down to me. It was very fast the first couple games. My mindset was just trying to not mess up. Just trying to be more consistent,” Williams said.
While the fumble was a step back, Williams has become more assertive in his routes and reactions in recent weeks.
“I’m not known for dropping balls,” he said. “The game was kind of fast. Just trying to get chemistry with both quarterbacks at the time. You can see it’s getting better.”
Fitz may end victory drought
Following Sunday’s game Fitzpatrick said he believes he is the perfect man to lead this rebuilding team.
Despite the objective of the Dolphins front office to achieve the No. 1 draft pick in 2020, the past five quarters showed Fitzpatrick has the moxie to lead this unheralded bunch to a win or two.
“I want to bring an energy. I want what I’m doing out there to be infectious to other guys,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have a lot of young guys that haven’t really played much at this level, and we have some guys that are a year or two into it. But I want to be that ‘stable guy’ that they can look to when things get a little shaky, and I’ve been in this situation a lot before.”
Williams’ smile was evidence that he and his young teammates are eager to follow their bearded leader.
Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns
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