DAVIE – The best that can be said about the Dolphins’ quarterback competition approaching the first preseason game is that now we have a horse race.
It was premature to draw conclusions after the first week when upstart Josh Rosen was struggling. It is too soon to say the touted but suspect newcomer has answered any significant questions by a much better second week capped by some eye-opening moments in the first team scrimmage.
Coach Brian Flores reinforced that point before Monday’s training camp session.
“I’ve seen a lot of improvement from a lot of guys. He’s one of them. But he’s still got a long way to go,” Flores said.
“By no means are we anointing him or crowning him. He’s stung a couple good days together … Hopefully he continues on this trajectory.”
Fitz still the starter
The first unofficial depth chart has been posted and veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is listed as the starter, as he should be. But that is etched in tissue paper with the whole exhibition season just beginning Thursday against the Atlanta Falcons.
Rosen has gotten himself into the picture in the past week since Flores said that Fitzpatrick was the clear frontrunner.
Part of that has been improvement by Rosen. Another factor has been Fitzpatrick showing why he is a journeyman on his eighth team: career inconsistency.
That is who Fitzpatrick is, and at 36, what he will continue to be. Which is not necessarily bad, just not a foundation for winning championships.
Of greater interest for the preseason and beyond will be finding out what Rosen can be.
Last week shed light on why Rosen was lagging so far behind in the early practices when he revealed that he was having to learn a new process for identifying defenses than in offenses he has played in before.
When that learning curve started to level off, Rosen began making quicker and better decisions, and letting his talent emerge.
Is standout talent evident?
So he’s showing signs of being able to compete for the starting job. What he has yet to show is the qualities of being special.
That was the point in dealing second- and fifth-round draft picks to Arizona — the hope that Rosen can prove worthy of the estimation that made him the 10th overall selection in the 2018 draft.
He failed to do that as a rookie with the Cardinals.
Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, chosen by the Dolphins one pick after Rosen in that draft, said there are some encouraging signs from a defender’s perspective.
“He’s a good quarterback, man,” Minkah Fitzpatrick said after Monday’s practice. “He gets the ball down the field really well. You’ve seen today and other days, he puts the ball in windows real nice, has a good eye. He takes chances, which is a good thing as a quarterback — you can’t play too safe.
“Obviously, you don’t want to [try to] do too much. But he’s a good quarterback and he’s going to keep growing in this system and keep making plays.”
Notably, Rosen was critical of himself for throwing a risky pass in Saturday’s scrimmage that went for a touchdown to Isaiah Ford.
“That’s one of those plays where, in retrospect, everyone sees, ‘Oh yeah, cool, it was a touchdown,’ but it definitely should have been a pick,” Rosen said. “That’s definitely something that I’ve got to take and realize that it’s first-and-goal in the low red zone and I’ve got to be smarter than that.”
Self awareness is admirable, and encouraging from Rosen. He arrived with a reputation for being inclined to sling passes where perhaps he shouldn’t.
Leader status must be earned
That is only one of many areas where Rosen must improve to cement a future with the Dolphins. Questions about leadership ability and inspiring trust from teammates also followed him to South Florida.
“You don’t just walk into a place and say, ‘I’m the leader.’ It’s something you have to earn,” Flores said. “He’s got to earn the respect of his teammates. I think he’s doing that.
“Right now I don’t think there’s anything about Josh that’s holding him back. I think it’s a learning process.”
It’s to Rosen’s advantage that there aren’t many established veterans on this team. Most of these Dolphins are in the same category with much to prove.
As for what it would take to make major strides forward, Flores stuck with his theme of incremental progress.
“I think the one thing is … you start to focus on what you did the last practice, you lose a little bit on today. He’s just got to keep stringing them together.
“Yesterday only matters if you build on it today. … We still have the preseason games ahead of us. We still have a lot of practices ahead of us.”
Expect to see plenty of Rosen during the exhibition season. The real Dolphins quarterback race begins Thursday night at Hard Rock Stadium.
Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns
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