With training camp just around the corner, it's about that time to go through the roster and check to see where the main training camp battle will be. While some battles will be harder to fight than others, every single player on the roster, no matter how much of a long shot, will be giving it their all to prove they have what it takes to make the team.
As always with these types of things, we'll start with the quarterback position and work our way from there. Naturally, there's no battle for the starting job, as that is firmly in the hands of the returning Ryan Tannehill, who was playing the best football of his career the last time he saw the field.
This leaves a battle for the backup spot, and it's split between three veterans looking to show that they're more than just camp fodder.
Based on early reports from OTAs and mini-camp, David Fales seems to have taken an early lead in the race to become the Miami Dolphins primary backup behind Tannehill. Fales has drawn praise from head coach Adam Gase, who has history with Fales during his brief time in Chicago, and from his impressive performance in Week 17 of the 2017 season.
“I think after that last game, I was feeling good and then by bringing (Offensive Coordinator) Dowell (Loggains) in, he had been with him before." Gase said last month. "I think he saw the improvement that a lot of us were talking about. We felt like that was a good first step for us, and really we wanted to see how everything played out, because between free agency and the draft, you just never know how things are going to shake out."
In that game, Fales completed 29 out of 42 passes, for 265 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and according to teammates, Fales has already gotten off to a good start building chemistry with the skill players.
“He gets the ball out." said Dolphins tight end MarQueis Gray. "He’s doing a good job. His deep ball has been remarkable this offseason. Him and Jakeem (Grant) and (Mike) Gesicki, they’ve been hooking up a lot. They’ve been getting open a lot.”
Gase likes Fales because of the mental capacities he has, able to do multiple things at the line of scrimmage and keep things organized, which is something that the Miami Dolphins offense desperately needs if they are going to be able to run the full extent of their playbook.
The other two QBs on the roster will have their hands full trying to unseat him.
This brings us to the quarterback most likely to unseat Fales as the backup. Veteran Brock Osweiler was signed to a one-year deal worth a mere grand total of $880,000; this includes a $90,000 signing bonus and a total of $630,000 guaranteed.
For a quarterback who does have some semblance of a reputation and at least a little bit of starting experience, this minimum contract is an excellent deal for the Miami Dolphins. Should Osweiler fail to unseat Fales as the backup, Miami can easily cut ties with him after training camp for a negligible dent in the salary cap, or they can keep him on the bench in order to keep three QBs just in case the unthinkable happens.
Osweiler has 25 starts under his belt, and it wasn't that long ago that he was considered good enough to sign a four-year, $72 million dollar contract with the Houston Texans. That time just so happened to be when Gase was with the Denver Broncos, then something went horribly wrong once the two separated, and Osweiler found himself being paid to leave teams rather than lead them.
Now, Gase is bringing Osweiler back in to see if there's something to salvage, though the fact that the coaching staff having to work with him on the basics all over again is a serious red flag.
“We’re doing some things mechanically with him to kind of make everything consistent, which he’s doing a really good job,” quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree said last month. “I think he’s throwing the ball really well and he’s really fun to be around. It’s a good that we have right now, that we’re working with this offseason.”
Still, hearing that he's "doing well" does not really improve his overall chances of winning the backup job, especially if Fales is understanding the offense as well as it seems. Osweiler is also familiar with Gase's offense, but he'll have a hard time beating out Fales if he can't get accurate.
Lastly, we have Bryce Petty. Signed via a waiver claim shortly after his release, Petty is being viewed as the "camp arm" rather than an actual candidate to win the backup job. He's played only ten games in the three years he spent with the Jets, and he has no familiarity with the coaching staff to give him an edge, unlike the aforementioned Fales and Osweiler.
Perhaps the thing that Petty is most infamous for (at least in the memories of Dolphins fans) is that one game against Miami back in December of 2016 when he became the insides of a very bizarre sandwich, courtesy of Cameron Wake and the departured Ndamukong Suh.
Though there aren't high expectations for Petty from the outside looking in, the Miami Dolphins have made it a point to explain that Petty isn't just a camp arm, that he's here to compete for the job just like anyone else.
"Bryce is a guy that is extremely talented. He’s got talent." Dolphins offensive coordinator Dowall Loggains said last month. "We’ve got to coach him hard and get that stuff out of him. He’s got some things in his footwork and those things. We’re working really hard to get consistent and create more accuracy for him. It’s something we talked to him about is there’s not enough time in the offseason anymore.
"The rules, they are what they are. It used to be in January we start working with these guys and February, and they just grind quarterbacks. It’s hard now. Every Monday when he’s off and every Friday when he’s off and on the weekends, he needs to keep working on his drops and the consistency in his footwork, because if he gets that part of it all right, he has enough talent in his upper body to play.”
Petty will have to do some serious mental work if he plans to catch up to Osweiler and Fales, but the coaching staff has always stated that the best player will win the job. As training camp rolls around, if one of these quarterbacks ends up showing greater anticipation, accuracy and touch than the other, there's a distinct possibility that they could win the job.
Training camp will be here soon, so the answer will no doubt be revealed shortly.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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