“You’re getting way ahead of me.”
That’s what Dolphins coach Adam Gase said on Monday when asked if Jay Cutler (cracked ribs) will retain his starting gig by default once he returns to the playing field. Tonight’s Dolphins-Ravens game (8:25 p.m., NFL Network, CBS, Amazon Prime) features popular backup Matt Moore in a starting role for the first time since Jan. 8, 2017—a 30–12 playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In that game, Moore completed 80.56% of his passes (29-of-36) for 289 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The opportunity gives Moore a chance to prove he can ignite the Dolphins’ offense in a way Cutler has not been able to. Miami is 4–2, though the unretired Cutler has been ho-hum at best, throwing seven touchdowns to five interceptions and just two games with a quarterback rating over 77. Though Baltimore’s offense is sputtering, Moore will face one of the league’s most efficient defenses (the Ravens were fifth in Football Outsiders’ latest Defense-adjusted Value Over Average rankings) with a chance to crystallize some interesting numbers that have surfaced in recent Moore-Cutler comparisons.
Consider the following, via NFL’s Next Gen Stats:
• In Moore’s relief appearance against the Jets, he was averaging more Air Yards, Air Distance and fewer seconds from snap to throw than Cutler.
• In comparing Moore’s last two seasons with Cutler’s 2017, Moore is still averaging more Air Yards and Air Distance per attempt than Cutler by about a yard. Essentially, Gase’s offense is slightly more vertical with the longtime backup under center.
Maybe Gase doesn’t see it this way. As the Miami Herald reported earlier this week, Cutler is getting his job back unless Moore logs a “Dan Marino-like” performance. If that’s the case, I wonder what Gase would have labeled Moore’s first spot start of the 2016 season, a 34–13 thrashing of the Jets in which Moore threw for 236 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception (quarterback rating: 126.2)?
BOLD PREDICTION: Ravens coach John Harbaugh has already come to the defense of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg a few times this season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Ravens playcaller try something different to snap Baltimore out of this funk. Despite a slew of injuries to the team’s receiving corps (Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin are all listed as questionable), I think Joe Flacco will throw the ball 25 times in the first half—about the same number of attempts he had in the entire 30-17 win over the Raiders two weeks ago.