Miami Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick came into the Thursday Night Football matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars as a player on offense trending in the wrong direction in the 2020 NFL season. However, his rest-of-season outlook changed in a big way following the 31-13 victory for the Dolphins. Fitzpatrick was a man possessed in Miami’s first win of the season, and the offense looked improved under his guidance and leadership.
Below, I will take a closer look at Fitzpatrick’s dominant performance against the Jaguars and how he can carry that momentum into a grueling Week 4 showdown with the undefeated Seattle Seahawks. The veteran signal-caller was nearly perfect on Thursday night, which will need to continue this coming Sunday for the Dolphins to come out on top. The battle with Seattle will be a truth-telling exhibition for Fitzpatrick and this young Dolphins’ offense as we head into the main part of the NFL season.
Fitzpatrick’s perfect start on Thursday could trigger faster starts moving forward
During Miami’s first two opening season losses to the Bills and Patriots, one central theme was the slow starts on both offense and defense. As a spark plug for this Miami team, Fitzpatrick carries a big responsibility to start fast and get this young offense going early on in football games. When he hits the ground running on offense, the rest of the team seemingly follows suit, and that is a recipe for wins and success for this Dolphins team.
Not only did Fitzpatrick start hot on Thursday night, but he also began the night a perfect 12-for-12 while leading the team on two first-quarter touchdown drives. He finished the night with a nearly flawless 18-for-20 for 160 yards passing and two touchdowns, as well as an additional 38 yards rushing and a score on the ground. He avoided pressure with ease as he made confident throws and ran for timely first downs in both the first and second half of action.
The Dolphins relied on quick slants from star receiver DeVante Parker and short throws to workhorse running back Myles Gaskin to keep the offense humming along in the first few quarters. These plays made it easy for Miami to build a rhythm early on, and they never let up. This success is a theme that the team will look to continue next week against Seattle and the remainder of the 2020 schedule.
Seattle’s sieve-like secondary provides the perfect opportunity to continue to perform in rhythm
Through the first three weeks of the season, the perennially dominant Seattle secondary has allowed the most passing yards in the NFL. Against the Cowboys, Seattle once again was gashed through the air. Dak Prescott threw for 472 yards and three scores in a Week 3 loss to the Seahawks. Even though Seattle emerged with the victory, the defensive backfield has been a legitimate problem for them through three weeks.
Seattle’s defensive flaws present another perfect opportunity for the Dolphins to keep their passing offense in-sync and move along in Week 4. While their defense still maintains a host of talented players such as Shaquill Griffin, Bobby Wagner, and K.J. Wright, the unit struggled mightily against Dallas, New England, and Atlanta to open the year. The team has lost All-Pro contributors in recent years, such as Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, Jadeveon Clowney, Frank Clark, and Earl Thomas, and have not recovered well on the defensive side of the ball.
It was clear on Thursday Night Football that this Dolphins team turned a corner on offense and will look to exploit the weaknesses on Seattle’s defense. As I discussed in my takeaways from Week 3, Fitzpatrick has developed an excellent early rapport with Parker and found second-year receiver Preston Williams for a touchdown against the Jaguars. The Seahawks have allowed six receivers to go over the 100-yard mark this season, so Fitzpatrick will need to get his young and talented receivers involved early and often to keep this Miami team competitive.
Fitzpatrick’s rushing prowess must continue in Week 4
A significant catalyst for Fitzpatrick’s success as a thrower is his ability to keep the defense honest and create plays with his legs. He has a rushing score and two two-point conversions completed with his legs this season. Fitzpatrick is no longer needed as the leading rusher for this football team behind an improving offensive line. New starters such as rookies Austin Jackson and Solomon Kindley have been revelations upfront and have spearheaded an improved rushing attack in 2020.
That running game now belongs to the starter and newfound workhorse Myles Gaskin. As a former seventh-rounder, Gaskin has worked himself into a pivotal role in Miami’s backfield as the partner for Fitzpatrick. The two have combined for 220 rushing yards this season and connected 15 times in the passing game. Gaskin’s emergence in this offense has allowed Fitzpatrick to run less and has been a nice early-season story for the Dolphins.
However, one area that Seattle has experienced success against is the running game. Seattle has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher in 2020, and that could be a big concern for Miami as they game plan for the Seahawks this week. One player who exploited Seattle in the running game was quarterback Cam Newton of the Patriots. The big passer rushed for 47 yards and two scores in a Week 2 loss to the Seahawks. If Fitzpatrick can follow Newton and the Patriots’ footsteps, this may provide another avenue to success for this Dolphins offense’ and a win to propel them to 2-2 on the young NFL season.