It is early June, so there is still a lot of time between now and the start of the regular season in September. Assessing how players are doing in June, without live hitting or preseason games to analyze, is hard, but you can start to see how some position battles are unfolding, even if it is an early lead straight out of the gate and not a pull-away for the win as they come into the homestretch. One position battle - and one of the most interesting ones we will watch this preseason - is at the backup quarterback spot, where it appears David Fales may have the lead over Brock Osweiler and Bryce Petty.
Ryan Tannehill returns to the Dolphins after missing the last 19 regular season games due to injury, but his absence showed the Dolphins needed to move on from the unretired Jay Cutler and perennial Dolphins backup Matt Moore. The Dolphins re-signed Fales during the 2017 season when injuries to Cutler and Moore started causing those two to miss playing time, with Fales appearing in the season finale when he threw for 265 yards on 29-for-42 passing with one touchdown and one interception.
The team added Osweiler and Petty this offseason, signing Osweiler in free agency and claiming Petty off waivers when he was released by the New York Jets. Osweiler’s career has seen a meteoric rise to one of the top paid quarterbacks in the league followed by a crash back to Earth just as quickly, with time spent with the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, and back to the Broncos. In 2017, he started four games, appearing in two more, with Denver, throwing for 1,088 yards on 96-for-172 passing with five touchdowns and five interceptions.
Petty was unceremoniously dumped by the Jets this offseason, after being selected by the team in the 2015 Draft’s fourth round. In 2017, he started three games, appearing in one more, and threw for 544 yards on 55-for-112 passing with one touchdown and three interceptions.
Dolphins head coach Adam Gase spoke about Fales on Tuesday following the first day of the team’s veteran minicamp. He said of the quarterback he also coached when they were both with the Chicago Bears, “He just keeps getting better. He’s making a lot of plays in practice. I think he’s utilizing the guys he’s working with and I think getting to go with Albert (Wilson), Jakeem (Grant) and Isaiah (Ford) and Drew (Morgan), they’ve all been in this offense now – expect for Albert – for two or three years, so guys know what to do. He doesn’t have to worry about telling anybody what to do or dealing with any rookies at wide receiver. You’re able to just do your job. I think he’s doing a good job of finding the open guy and completing passes.”
Gase seems to like Fales, and it appears Fales could be getting that early lead on the position battle. That does not mean things are perfect for Fales. When asked what Fales needs to improve, Gase stated one word, “Overthinking.”
Asked to elaborate, Gase continued, explaining, “He can process a lot in his brain and just making sure that he just kind of sticks with what we’re doing and don’t go too far outside the box. Sometimes he’ll take a couple of extra steps that those other guys aren’t ready for. Sometimes he just (needs to) run the play and execute it. When the time comes and those guys are ready for that next step, you can take that at that point.”
Fales seems to have caught Gase’s eye as the early leader for the backup quarterback position - and Gase did not mention either of the other two backup contenders during his Tuesday press conference. Will Fales be able to consistently stay in the box - or just a little out of it - as Gase wants? Will he be able to hold on to that lead through the rest of minicamp and into training camp? Will Osweiler or Petty force themselves into the conversation?