While most Dolphins fans will be concerned with the quarterback play of grizzled veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and whether newly-acquired second-year QB, Josh Rosen, will play on Sunday, it’s the quarterback on the other sideline who Miami should be most concerned about Sunday.
Former Heisman Trophy winning QB Lamar Jackson gets set to begin his second NFL season, and his first, since being installed as the full-time starter for the Ravens. And, the speedy Jackson will pose as many problems with his legs, as his arm, for the aqua and white.
Jackson took over late last season as the Raven starter after former Super Bowl winning QB Joe Flacco suffered a hip injury. Baltimore promptly rolled off win after win with Jackson becoming the first quarterback in league history to run for at least 70 yds. in five consecutive games.
Although they lost a Wildcard playoff game the next week to the L.A. Chargers, it was still obvious that Jackson, who was drafted at the end of the first round in April 2018, was the quarterback the Baltimore was ready to turn to you.
So, they traded Flacco away in the offseason to the Denver Broncos making Jackson’s job security, for now, obvious.
Now, Baltimore has a new offensive coordinator in veteran play-caller and former Lions head coach, Marty Mornhinweg. And, Ravens fans are anxious to see if Jackson’s throwing and touch on the ball that they’ve seen glimpses of in the preseason will become a reality for the regular season starting Sunday.
Obviously, Dolphins coach Brian Flores has a defensive background previously from New England. And Flores knows that Miami better have second and third level defenders ready to cut off and chase Jackson at Hard Rock stadium Sunday.
That challenge will likely fall on linebackers Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan. McMillan, who’s been held out of preseason due to undisclosed injury, is not on Miami’s injured list this week. So, that’s a good sign that he’s ready to play and, better be ready to run.
Look for Miami to also utilize safeties Xavien Howard and Minkah Fitzpatrick to come up and help stop Jackson and his mobility.
It will be interesting to see if Mornhinweg and head coach John Harbaugh give Jackson the green light to duck the ball and take off, like he did so often in 2018. In his seven starts down the stretch of last season, Jackson ran the ball at least 11 times in all of them and had four games where he ran the ball 17 times or more.
Jackson averaged 4.7 3 yards per attempt on his 147 rushes a year ago for nearly 700 yards and five TDs.
Again, Dolphins fans will scrutinize everything from Ryan Fitzpatrick’s accuracy to his beard, as he starts on Sunday, but, the real challenge is stopping the guy wearing number 8 in Ravens purple.
Or, it will be a long day in South Florida.
Dolphins “limbo game” with QB Josh Rosen remains
The Dolphins continue to do their diligence on the possible drafting of a franchise type quarterback that they may be able to get their hands on in the upcoming in April. However, there remains a looming question with what to do with the former first-round pick QB that they acquired last April.
Josh Rosen remains, for now, part of the Dolphins plans, yet, even his biggest supporters have to concede ,that Rosen is likely “the odd man out” should Miami take one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft.
That’s because GM Chris Grier and coach Brian Flores are obviously committed to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. We know this because Fitzpatrick not only rallied the team for several wins down the stretch of the season, but that Miami has also gone and hired Fitzpatrick’s former offensive coordinator and head coach at two of his other stops, Chan Gailey for this season.
That’s not something that the Dolphins brass did lightly, and it foreshadows that Fitzpatrick will likely be the quarterback that they begin the regular season with, just as they did in 2019.
So, where exactly does that leave Rosen, who played very little last year, but has a salary cap friendly contract?
It likely means that he’s only “an insurance policy” that could be dropped at any point for very little salary cap ramifications.
We wrote near the end of last season that it did not make any sense that Miami wasn’t at least giving Rosen game action and some live reps in games last December, if only to see once and for all, if they could develop him into a quarterback for the future?
Obviously, the Dolphins spoke loudly with their actions, and by not even playing Rosen in any of the last seven games, they were indicating he’s expendable.
Dolphins beat writer for the Miami Herald Armando Salguero wrote Wednesday morning about Rosen situation, but shed very little light on what his actual future is. This is primarily because whether it’s Salguero, other media or anyone else not named Flores/Grier, they don’t know for sure what Rosen’s immediate, much less longer range, 2020 future is.
Sure, they could hang on to Rosen through the offseason and have him try to compete for playing time.
But, that seems to be a futile exercise if the Fins have already made up their mind that Fitzpatrick will start the year. And then, you’re drafting a rookie quarterback drafting a rookie quarterback, again to potentially be the future of the franchise.
Then again, Fitzpatrick is 37 years old and could break down physically along the way, well before the start of next season. So, keeping Rosen as that insurance policy along with the rookie Miami likely drafts, isn’t the worst idea.
However, for now, the 23 year old former UCLA star is in limbo.
And, for all we know, he could be cut to begin free agency coming up.
Certainly not giving Rosen a start in any of the last 11 games on an awful team is a clear indication that Grier and Flores didn’t believe in him. This after acquiring him and watching him all offseason, preseason and in the games that he did play.
We now await their next move with Rosen, and certainly, he does, too.
Stafford trade rumor reminder Dolphins better be ready to trade up
On Thursday morning a report surfaced that the Lions, who are currently slated to pick third in April’s NFL Draft, were actively looking to trade former Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Stafford. And, while that report has now been debunked, for teams like the Dolphins sitting in the fifth Spot, this is reminder of their reality of what could happen if someone jumps in front of them, in particular for a QB.
First, the report surfaced late Wednesday night from a local Detroit TV station that their sports reporter/anchor had learned that the Lions were looking for a trade partner for the 11-year veteran Stafford:
Sources: Lions in trade talks to deal Matthew Stafford https://t.co/1lH2yRxGZx
— Local 4 WDIV Detroit (@Local4News) February 13, 2020
That report was quickly squashed by lions GM Bob Quinn and numerous NFL media reporters and salary cap experts pointed out that Stafford’s cap hit would be a massive $32 million dollars, if he is traded or released this season.
So it’s not likely, no matter how bad the situation is with the Lions, the Stafford is going anywhere.
But, that doesn’t mean that the Redskins, who are picking second and the Giants were picking 4th after the Lions and obviously both before the Dolphins at five, aren’t going to also be in the market to listen to trade offers for their picks.
This is, because Washington seems to be committed, for now with a new head coach and Ron Rivera, to last year’s first round quarterback pick, Dwayne Haskins
And likewise, the Giants have obviously made a commitment to their number one pick up last year, Daniel Jones. This after 2 time Super Bowl winning veteran quarterback Eli Manning announced his retirement, recently.
So, both NFC East teams appear to be targets, if a team (including the Dolphins) would look to try to increase their draft position.
This is in particular if that team were interested in the second best quarterback available in the draft, which is likely Alabama Tua Tagovailoa.
As was reported earlier this week, Tagovailoa is on schedule to heal from a fractured hip suffered last November in Alabama’s game with Mississippi State. While Tua won workout at the NFL combine later this month, it’s believed that he would likely work out for teams Alabama facility later in March or April.
One final factor in favor of the Dolphins and GM Chris Grier: they have some trade capital, including extra first-round pick this year and next year, with which the potentially move up if they so desire.
It’s all part of the evaluation process and then, the drama of what the teams at the top of the first round will look to do later this Spring.
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