Support for Ryan Fitzpatrick
Saturday morning at took an unexpected turn just as the team prepared to kick off the first scrimmage of the 2020 calendar. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and Head Coach Brain Flores broke away from the rest of the team and headed for the southwest tunnel at Hard Rock Stadium, arms around one another. Moments later, Flores emerged and Fitzpatrick did not.
Ryan Fitzpatrick's mother, Lori, passed away early Saturday.
The team gathered together and took a knee in prayer for their teammate, for their friend.
A number of grief-stricken players took the opportunity to tell the media just how important Fitzpatrick is to this team on and off the field, and the level of support he has in this extended family that is the Miami Dolphins
Flores: "I went through this a year ago. Our moms were about the same age. We're about the same age. We're both – I'm a former athlete; he's an athlete, but we're both competitive guys and leaders; and you know, you want to be strong, but there are moments where you can't. You're not able to be and so I understand that, and it's – I just try to support him. This team is supporting him and that was – essentially, that was my message to him."
Isaiah Ford: "It's tough. Any time somebody's dealing with a loss – specifically a mother – a mother and a son's bond is something like no other. I couldn't imagine if it was me, and I just want him to know that whatever we can do as an extended family to support him and help him mourn his loss, that we'll be here for him, you know and just that I love him like a brother."
Tua Tagovailoa: "I told 'Fitz' that I'm here for him. I got emotional when 'Fitz' ended up leaving, too and while we were about to pray as a team; but that's not something that's easy. I reached out to him, too, telling him that he's in my prayers and he's been on my mind and my heart and that if they need anything, that they can reach out to me and I'm here."
Josh Rosen: "It's a brutal situation. And I just tried to support him like any way I could these last couple days, weeks and months; but I mean, Ryan's mom raised a hell of a kid – really strong, awesome, independent kind dude. And I've been fortunate enough to be around him these last couple months, almost a year now, probably. And yeah, it's a tough situation, but kind of puts everything into perspective and reminds you that we all are still human and human things happen."
Eric Rowe: "He means a lot to us, not just as a teammate but just as a guy in the locker room. He brings consistent energy. He's funny. He's just a good guy to be around and we all feel for him. We all have our prayers going for him and when he comes back, he's going to come back to a family."
Attendance, injuries and roster moves
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy and running back Patrick Laird were in pads on the field before kickoff, but neither participated in the scrimmage. Wide receiver Kirk Merritt worked out on the field in shorts and t-shirts pre-game, but did not participate. DeVante Parker was also absent from Saturday's scrimmage.
The Dolphins also traded linebacker Raekwon McMillan to the Las Vegas Raiders for a swap of 2021 draft picks. Flores addressed the trade in his post-game presser.
"Obviously Raekwon (McMillan) is someone I have a lot of respect for. He's a talented player," Flores said. "He's a good football player. I think he's going to have a long career but there's a lot of depth in that room. There's, again, like a lot of decisions we make as an organization, there's a lot of things that go into it that you're not going to know about, and we're not going to tell you. But in every decision we make, it's in the best interests of the Miami Dolphins. I have a lot of respect for him. I wish him all the best. He's a good kid."
With 60 or 70 plays – give or take – to chew on, let's go position-by-position and detail the day that was, on the field.
Josh Rosen threw the lone touchdown of the day to Ricardo Louis. Rosen detailed that throw post-game.
"It wasn't wide open it. It was more of kind of an opportunity ball," Rosen said. "He was running a corner route, and corner kind of fell off into it a little bit underthrown and Ricardo (Louis) made a hell of a play."
Rosen also made up one half of the longest play of the day with a deep pass to Malcolm Perry, good for 56 yards up the sideline.
"That (throw is) not really a part of our read, but the first two guys I was going to kind of got trapped inside on some out-breaking routes and in my vision through them, I kind of see the go behind it and kind of just notice that Malcolm had a step on it and just thought I would chuck it," Rosen said. "There was only one safety in the field. I didn't think he was going to track it down, but it really wasn't kind of a plan. It was more of a reaction because my first couple guys got stuck inside."
Tua Tagovailoa led a pair of field goal drives courtesy of some chunk gains. The rookie showed his propensity to manage the pocket and keep his eyes downfield amidst the chaos. He completed a handful of quick-hitting routes as his prowess in the rhythm passing game was on display.
The rookie southpaw evaluated his performance post-game.
"There's some things that we need to clean up offensively on my end, and things in general with communication; and then for me, not turning the ball over in situations," Tagovailoa said. "So being better with situational awareness, down and distance, and then communication, and that's why we got film, too, to be able to go over that."
Flores talked about his two young quarterbacks and what he saw before he gets to the film.
"I think if you don't see a bunch of touchdowns scored, you feel like the quarterback is not playing well. That's not necessarily the case, not in my opinion," Flores said. "So I have to go back and look at the film. I saw some good throws. I saw some good decisions to – could have thrown it in some tighter windows. Potential turnovers that guys didn't make the throw; but I've got to go watch the film, to be honest with you."
Matt Breida's speed popped on the well-manicured turf at Hard Rock Stadium. He ripped through the line for a couple of intermediate gains, including a 13-yard gallop with a quick jump-cut that slingshot the back into the second level.
Jordan Howard is so proficient in his ability to find the small creases. The Dolphins defensive line made life difficult throughout the day, but Howard frequently manages to pick up positive yardage regardless of the route he takes to get there.
Malcolm Perry had the biggest play of the day racing up the sideline for the long, aforementioned completion from Rosen. Bobby McCain expressed what he sees in Perry, post-game.
"He's just a football player. He makes plays," McCain said. "He's a tough kid. He's working on making tough catches. As you saw today, he had a big catch today."
Wide receivers and tight ends
Isaiah Ford led the team in receptions on Saturday with five. He created consistent separation working a variety of routes spread across the field. His best – and longest play -- came on a comeback against Byron Jones when the fourth-year receiver sold the Pro Bowl cornerback on a takeoff, then came back down the stem to catch a well-placed pass from Tagovailoa, good for 26 yards.
Louis scored the touchdown and caught two other passes to help the offense move the chains. Each of Louis' catches came in traffic with impressive concentration.
Preston Williams caught three passes and had a chance at a fourth with a well-thrown (Tagovailoa), well-contested (Byron Jones) deep ball that Williams originally corralled but had the ball dislodged by Jones.
At tight end Adam Shaheen caught a precision pass from Rosen for a first down and Durham Smythe dug out some nice lanes as a run blocker.
Ted Karras has provided a veteran anchor in the middle of the Dolphins offensive line. He and Ereck Flowers opened up a hole on a first-down run by Breida.
Solomon Kindley had a big series that started with a pancake block and ended with a great rep in pass protection passing off, and wiping out a pair of rushers. Davon Godchaux talked about Kindley's abilities post-game.
"He's a big guy," Godchaux said. "He has great feet for a big guy. He's just very aggressive. I like those tangibles about him, but he's just got to keep working, keep everything consistent and keep listening to his coach, and I think the sky is the limit for him."
Adam Pankey was on an island in a one-on-one situation in pass protection on the deep pass from Rosen to Perry. Pankey did well to redirect and win the rep against rookie Jason Strowbridge. Pankey's solid performance wasn't exclusive to this rep; he had a positive day overall.
The offensive line, collectively, created some clean pockets for the quarterbacks. The product of those clean pockets was a number of intermediate gains – on top of the deep pass to Perry – but also went by the wayside because of quality downfield coverage.
This group showed its mettle on Saturday. Eric Rowe and Clayton Fejedelem intercepted passes. Breon Borders and Nik Needham also came away with picks, but both were negated by defensive pass interference calls.
Rowe talked about his interception post-game.
"It was just straight-up man. He ran, it was like an out and up," Rowe said. "Honestly I didn't think they were going to throw it to him because I was covered all on him but once his eyes got big, I just turned my head and the quarterback threw it inside, gave me the chance and I made the play."
The majority of the safety group checked in with big plays. The two interceptions, limiting the tight ends in the passing game, and Brandon Jones making more plays all over the field. He continues to time his runs exceptionally well and make an impact both against the run and pass.
Bobby McCain directs the traffic from his free safety position. McCain's strong camp translated to the Saturday scrimmage as he was near the ball on a number of incomplete passes, not to mention – to my knowledge – no coverage breakdowns or receivers running free.
"We are all coming together as a team and understand that we all have our roles to play," McCain said. "We work on turnovers each and every day at practice, so making sure we get a chance, an opportunity every time stripping the ball, go pick the ball at the highest point. That's really what we want to focus our game on is just being ball hawks."
Byron Jones was tested minimally and permitted limited production from the opposing passing game. Jones matched up with Williams for the majority of the day as the two traded blows. Jones was hardly targeted in the first half, pitching a shutout on passes completed.
Nik Needham showed his resilience on his first possession of work. Louis caught a pair of comeback routes on him, but Needham made an adjustment. When Rosen and Louis came back to the well a third time, Needham was in perfect shape underneath, trusting his safety help, and got his hands on the ball. Needham broke up two passes and forced a fumble.
Kamu Grugier-Hill started the practice with a tackle for loss and continued his strong performance in coverage. Grugier-Hill shows a penchant for getting physical and disrupting the timing of routes coming over the middle, or in man coverage on the big tight ends of the Dolphins.
Elandon Roberts has been fitting the run and creating collisions just about every day so far this camp. Karras knows Roberts' ability to inflict pain all too well.
"This is our fifth season together, and he's just about the hardest hitter I've ever played against. That's the biggest challenge going with (Roberts)," Karras said. "Very good player and someone I respect as a friend, and as a man."
Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah have been regulars in the backfield at the Dolphins training facility in Davie, and that production translated Saturday to Hard Rock Stadium. Lawson showed power at the point on a pair of tackles for loss and got in for a would-be sack. Ogbah's pass-rushing prowess continued with a handful of pressures off the other side of the line.
Zach Sieler shows up daily. He consistently collapses the pocket and his length in the run game allows him to strike first with those powerful hands, read the play, and work off the block to get involved.
Raekwon Davis, Christian Wilkins and Davon Godchaux all had run stops and a pair of quarterback pressures among the trio.
Next time out
The Dolphins are holding a walkthrough on Sunday, and return to practice on Monday.
Rest in peace, Lori Fitzpatrick.