When Josh Rosen was acquired with a trade during the NFL draft in April, most fans of the Miami Dolphins figured they finally had their quarterback of the future in place for years to come.
Or did they?
With the preseason in full swing and the Dolphins spending the week in Tampa for practice scrimmages with the cross-state NFC rival Buccaneers, Ryan Fitzpatrick remains firmly entrenched atop the quarterback depth chart. Experience, which the veteran fourteen years with seven other NFL teams has plenty of, certainly plays a big part of it. But Rosen, the 10th overall pick of the 2018 draft, has the pedigree and skills to step right in and start, right?
Or does he?
Rosen suffered through an abysmal rookie season for the Arizona Cardinals last year, including a Week 7 game in which two (of three) interceptions were returned for touchdowns. Rosen also lost two fumbles and was sacked six times in that 45–10 loss to the Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football. The next day his offensive coordinator was fired. The Cardinals improved from that point, but not enough to save the coaching staffs jobs.
Not exactly a winning formula for introducing a rookie QB to the NFL, right?
Understandably, the Dolphins are bringing Rosen along slowly, a luxury they can afford because they have Fitzpatrick to fill in the gap until Rosen is ready. While the coaches insist that there is an open quarterback competition and the best player will start, it’s becoming more apparent as each week goes by that the two quarterbacks’ relationship is more teacher/student than as competitors.
“I think he has to do a better job getting guys in and out of the huddle,” says head coach Brian Flores. “His communication, body language; there were some plays there he didn't like, and we just have to move onto the next play. That's the case for him and all the quarterbacks … that's something that's part of the evaluation as well.”
Body language is something coaches are emphasizing to the quarterback room this year. After every play, good or bad, all eyes, from coaches, players, and TV cameras and fans alike, drift back to the quarterback.
“At the quarterback positon, they're all looking at you,” says Flores. “I think that's something that they have to be conscious of. I talked to all of the quarterbacks about that, as well as the leaders on the team. They're looking to you as a leader. I think that's an important piece of this that people don't talk about very much, but I think it's very important."
Rosen gets it, and insists that no one is more critical of himself, making sure to not let the highs be too high, nor the lows be too low, regardless of what happens on the field.
“I think as a quarterback,” says Rosen, “in addition to the execution part of it, I think a lot of it is about leading, and about trying to keep a steady ship and keep that forward momentum, regardless of what's going on around you. Because a lot of people are looking to you to kind of be that rock. I think that's what Coach Flores was referring to. He wants me to kind of be steadier, and just execute, and be a positive force.”
And that’s where the mentorship of Fitzpatrick comes into play. As a veteran journeyman, he’s certainly no stranger to being replaced by up and coming youngsters, and he knows he’s here to steady the ship until if and when Rosen is ready. And in spite of being in competition for the same job, Rosen and Fitzpatrick are getting along great in the quarterback room and on the field, something Rosen is quick to appreciate.
“He's been unbelievably helpful,” says Rosen of Fitzpatrick. “He's probably one of the best mentors I've had in the sport, and he's been an unbelievable teammate - very selfless in helping me so much. It's pretty impressive how he can just sort of walk up to the line and see it and just know what front, what coverage - everything they're trying to do. I'm just trying to get to that level. It's going to be a long road, a lot of film, a lot of studying, and I'm just indebted to Fitz for how selfless he's being.
“He is being selfless and whatnot, but he's still competing his ass off. He's balling and when/if/and whenever this or whatever shakes out this year, he's going to absolutely fight his balls off.”
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball.
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