Miami Dolphins: Quarterback leads list of three position battles to watch

The Miami Dolphins are in the midst of a rebuild. A new coaching staff means just about every position is up for grabs, it's up to the players to earn their playing time.

When the Miami Dolphins hired head coach Brian Flores as the tenth head coach in franchise history, they did so intending to rebuild the lackluster roster. Under former head coaches, Adam Gase and Joe Philbin, Miami has had a lack of competition for the last seven years.

Coach Flores has been with the New England Patriots for the past 14 years, a system where you compete and earn the playing time you receive. With that in mind, Dolphins fans should expect to see competition at just about every position on the roster.

Good competition can bring out the best in people. It will be nice for Dolphins fans to see real positional competitions going on in Miami this year. Let us dive into a few that should be watched closely.

Quarterback competition

With Ryan Tannehill out of the picture now, the Dolphins will get their first QB competition in seven years. Tannehill was never pushed for his starting job in Miami as the two coaching staffs during his tenure didn’t think he needed any competition for his job.

It looked as if Ryan Fitzpatrick would be the unquestioned day one starter. However, a draft-day trade brought former first-round pick Josh Rosen to Miami. Fitzpatrick is a fourteen year NFL veteran who has been in many different systems. Rosen, however, is entering his second year after struggling as a rookie with the Arizona Cardinals.

Last year, Fitzpatrick was almost able to beat out former first overall pick Jameis Winston for the starting job of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fitzpatrick posted over 400 yards and at least three touchdowns in the first three weeks of 2018. Rosen was selected 10th overall by the Cardinals in the 2018 draft (one spot ahead of Miami.) But he struggled behind the offensive line that allowed the fifth most sacks in the NFL (tied with Miami and Oakland allowing 52 sacks.)

Whatever direction this competition goes will show an insight as to what the future will be for the Dolphins quarterback position. If Fitzpatrick can beat out Rosen, Miami will be looking for their QB of the future in 2020. If Rosen can learn the offense and develop chemistry with his weapons and win the job, then there’s a strong possibility that he will be the long term QB in Miami.

Who will rush the passer?

Miami was 29th in the NFL in sacks last year, tallying only 31 on the season. To go with that dismal number, the Dolphins are losing 14 of those sacks. The team decided to part ways with Cameron Wake, Robert Quinn, and Andre Branch. As the roster currently sits, Miami players have a combined total of only 64.5 career sacks. Out of that number, a third of those (21.5) have come from players in the secondary.

Miami will need Charles Harris to step up this season and show why he was drafted in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft. If Harris can’t earn significant snaps this season, it may be time to move on from the former Missouri Tiger.

With the 13th pick in the 2019 NFL draft, Miami chose Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. Wilkins played defensive end his freshman year at Clemson under current Dolphins defensive line coach Marion Hobby.

The defensive line needs to be the heartbeat of the defense. If the unit struggles to get after the QB in 2019, the secondary will be exposed in the passing game.

Who will hold down the boundary opposite of Xavien Howard?

The Dolphins allowed 31 passing touchdowns in 2018, ranking 25th in the league. They also surrendered the 21st most yards. If not for Xavien Howard’s breakout season in which he led the league in interceptions (and also earned the biggest contract for a cornerback in league history), Miamis defense probably would have been last in all passing stats.

Most expected second-year player Cordrea Tankersley to step into the CB2 position and provide a solid presence on the outside. Unfortunately, he struggled to find any playing time logging only 29 snaps before tearing his ACL in week six.

Miami signed Eric Rowe, who has spent the last three seasons with Brian Flores in New England. If Rowe can’t beat out Tankersley, he should be used similarly to how he was employed in New England, covering bigger receivers or athletic tight ends.

Moving forward

The winners of these positional competitions will help mold the Dolphins roster for the foreseeable future. Additionally, they will provide insight as to what type of players this new coaching staff prefers and may signal how the team will build the roster going forward.

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