Wide Open QB Battle Brings Out The Best In Moore And Garrard

Posted Jul 28, 2012

All eyes are typically on the quarterbacks at training camp no matter the team, but for the Miami Dolphins this holds even more weight.

Head Coach Joe Philbin has made it clear that the starting job is anyone’s for the taking, with veterans Matt Moore and David Garrard currently the top two candidates. Rookie first-round draft pick Ryan Tannehill, who played for offensive coordinator Mike Sherman at Texas A&M, is still negotiating his contract so Moore, Garrard and Pat Devlin are picking up his snaps.

“We’re going to study the tape and watch the tape and evaluate there and see,” said Philbin, who gave Moore the bulk of the snaps with the first team on Friday and Garrard the same today. “I know a lot has been written and there has been a lot of speculation about who is ahead and whether this guy is behind and he’s not ready, but that is news to me. We are still evaluating all quarterbacks, Pat Devlin included, and we’ll make a decision when it becomes evident.”

Each of the candidates is focusing the same way on the competition, with the intent on winning the job and trying not to pay attention to what is being written or said. Once they leave the meeting room and step onto the practice field their only concern is making good throws and executing the plays properly.

Moore has weathered the most distractions since taking over as the starter last season in Week 4 when Chad Henne suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Despite leading Miami to a 6-3 record over the last nine games and ending up as the 12th-rated passer in the league with a rating of 87.0, he was apprised by General Manager Jeff Ireland that the team was going to pursue as many as two quarterbacks in the offseason – one through the draft (Tannehill) and one through free agency (Garrard). He adjusted his mental approach accordingly.

“You can only control what you can control what you can control,” Moore said. “It’s difficult at times just because all the cameras and people writing. It’s hard not to hear about it, but as a player, I don’t know, I just try to do my job, you know what I mean? The coaches have a job to do in preparing us, preparing each guy and I think naturally somebody is going to rise up and become the guy. I’ve got too much other stuff to worry about than thinking about the two or three other guys that are also at that position.”

Perhaps no group of players has a better idea of how the quarterback competition is progressing than the wide receivers, as they are the ones catching the passes and running the routes. Returning veterans like Davone Bess and Brian Hartline are more familiar with Moore having played with him last season, but they are getting comfortable with Garrard at the same time.

Bess is entering his fifth season and has played with five different quarterbacks since being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008. He is not about to handicap the competition as far as which quarterback might be ahead, but he thinks the battle can only help both of them as well as the rest of the players on both sides of the ball.

“They’re doing a good job of handling it. We know the media is all over it,” said Bess, who was second on the team in receptions each of the last two seasons. “Those guys know what’s at stake. They both want to start and they both want to play. They’re both good competitors. It’s going to bring the best out of both of them. Like I said, it’s going to make the team better. Right now, I would say it’s pretty even. Like I said, the coaches are giving them both the right amount of reps. We’re pretty much in there all the time. The chemistry is there. The more reps you take, the chemistry just continues to grow.”

Garrard has been through his share of quarterback battles during his eight seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, so he isn’t too concerned about being distracted by any prognostications. He missed all of last season after undergoing back surgery following his release by the Jaguars, and at the age of 34 he is cognizant of the question marks that surround his attempt at a comeback.

Shortly after the Dolphins worked him out and then signed him as a free agent before the draft, Garrard set out to prove he was healthy and still had plenty of strength in his right arm. He has picked up the offense rather fast and has exhibited some good mobility, which is why he feels good about his odds of winning the starting job.

“I think my chances are pretty good,” Garrard said. “I don’t think they would have me here or even say that it was open competition if my chances weren’t good. I know I can still play. I’ve just got to continue to prove it on the field and that’s what’s going to be the deciding factor is how we perform on the field. The quarterback position is the one position that you can clearly see most of the time who should be out there. As long as I continue to do my job and do what I can do and play my best, hopefully that’s enough.”

Moore is thinking the same way, which makes this position battle the key one to watch over the next month.
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