Sorry, Tua. The Dolphins best chance in 2020 is with Ryan Fitzpatrick

Ryan Fitzpatrick beats out rookie Tua Tagovailoa to be Dolphins’ opening-day starting QB

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores on Monday confirmed the news that’s been hanging over them all off-season: this is still Ryan Fitzpatrick’s team.

Flores announced that Fitzpatrick, the 37-year-old veteran entering his 16th NFL season, will be the Dolphins starting quarterback when they open the 2020 season on Sunday on the road against the New England Patriots. Tua Tagovailoa, the fifth-overall draft pick out of Alabama, will be the backup.

It would’ve been difficult for Tagovailoa to beat out Fitzpatrick for the starting job in this, the most unusual NFL offseason. With no offseason programs, the Dolphins didn’t get to see him on the field until training camp. He’s yet to see game action after all the preseason games were canceled. Tagovailoa has shown in camp he’s fully recovered from the hip injury he suffered while at Alabama, displaying impressive mobility and passing ability, but the opportunities to see it were limited, something Flores alluded to in his Monday announcement.

“This isn’t ground-breaking news. Fitz is going to be the starter. In a year like this, with no OTAs, no mini-camp, limited training camp, I felt like that was the best decision for the team,” Flores said.

The Dolphins brought in Fitzpatrick in 2019 to serve as a bridge to the future for a rebuilding (some would call it tanking) franchise. He was benched in favor of Josh Rosen after just two starts as the Dolphins began the season 0-7. But, starting in Week 9 and with Fitzpatrick back under center, the Dolphins began to shred the dreaded label of tankers.

Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins to a 5-4 record over their final nine games, including a last-minute Week 17 victory over the Patriots that denied their AFC East rivals a bye in the postseason. After ranking last in the league scoring 11 points per game through Week 8, the Dolphins improved to seventh in the second half averaging more than 25 points per game. The Dolphins were third in the NFL in passing yards in that span, and eighth in passing touchdowns.

Last season was a rebuilding season. This year, the Dolphins expect to be playoff contenders after an offseason spending spree. They’ve added free agents Kyle Van Noy, Ereck Flowers, Byron Jones, Elandon Roberts, and Shaq Lawson. Just these players alone cost the team $195.5 million.

They’ve revamped their backfield, adding running backs Jordan Howard and Matt Breida. DeVante Parker, who opens the season as the clear-cut No. 1 receiver, developed a connection with Fitzpatrick that elevated him into the upper-echelon of NFL receivers. He finished the season fifth in the league with 1,202 receiving yards, a year after finishing fifth on the Dolphins in receiving.

The rest of the Dolphins receivers, though, are unproven. Veterans Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson both opted-out of playing this year, while No. 2 receiver Preston Williams is coming back from a torn ACL he suffered in Week 9. Throwing Tagovailoa onto the field, with limited experience and with uncertainty in the receiving corps, just isn’t in the Dolphins’ best interests this season.

Tagovailoa’s time may come at some point this season after he takes a few weeks to learn the offense and watch an experienced quarterback play. But, at least for now, the Dolphins are counting on a touch of Fitz-Magic to fulfill the promise they believe they have in 2020.

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