As the Miami Dolphins prepare for the start of training camp, we break down every position with a look back at what happened in the offseason, what to watch in the summer and what might happen in the regular season.
We start the series with the quarterbacks.
ON THE ROSTER
• Jacoby Brissett — Sixth year out of North Carolina State; third-round pick of the New England Patriots in 2016
• Reid Sinnett — First-year player out of San Diego; entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent
• Tua Tagovailoa – Second year out of Alabama; first-round pick (fifth overall) of the Dolphins in 2020
Jan. 5 — Sinnett signed to a futures contract
March 15 — Ryan Fitzpatrick became an unrestricted free agent
March 17 — Dolphins declined to tender a qualifying offer to exclusive-rights free agent Jake Rudock, making him an unrestricted free agent
March 18 — Signed Brissett as an unrestricted free agent from the Indianapolis Colts
Tagovailoa: 9 starts, 186-of-290 (64.1 percent) for 1,814 yards with 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions and an 87.1 passer rating
Fitzpatrick: 7 starts, 183-of-267 (68.5 percent) for 2,091 yards with 13 touchdowns and 8 interceptions and a 95.6 passer rating
There really wasn't much to discuss about the quarterback situation last season ... just kidding. It actually was a wild ride that began with the veteran Fitzpatrick leading the offense at the start of the offense before the Dolphins decided to make the switch after six games. The move came after Fitzpatrick had thrown three touchdown passes in each of two consecutive blowout victories against the 49ers and Jets and as the Dolphins headed into their bye after it was moved up as part of the NFL's reshuffled schedule. The circumstances around the switch certainly could lead one to believe it was predetermined that the Dolphins were going to switch from Fitzpatrick to Tagovailoa at the bye regardless of circumstances. Tagovailoa had an up-and-down rookie season, with the bright side topped by his 6-3 record and the down side featuring two games when he was pulled in favor of Fitzpatrick. Though this might not sit well to Tua fans, Fitzpatrick clearly was the better quarterback in 2020, though Tua overall was effective as a game manager on a team that rode its defense and special teams most of the season.
THE TOP SUMMER STORYLINES
This actually might be "storyline" because there's nothing really that will matter much in training camp outside of Tagovailoa's development. While he had to deal with some obstacles as a rookie — not far removed from hip surgery, a virtual offseason — Tagovailoa has things in his favor this time. He had the benefit of offseason practices, he's another year removed from his surgery, he has a year of experience in the NFL and he's also got some new (speedy) partners on offense. It's now up to him to do his part and that begins with what he can show at training camp.
Obviously the offseason was about Tua and the two things that stood out were the glowing comments he received from every direction about his training and how far he's come since last year and then, of course, that one memorable (forgettable perhaps?) minicamp practice when he threw five interceptions. In terms of what all of it meant, it's probably fair to call the whole thing a wash because comments from people within the organization or people hired to work with him and then the five interceptions, while troublesome, did come in a practice three months before the regular season.
LONG SHOT TO WATCH
Because the Dolphins current have only three quarterbacks on the roster, the only one to mention here is Reid Sinnett, who spent most of last year on the practice squad but was in uniform for the one game Tagovailoa sat out with an injury and for the season finale when Fitzpatrick was on the COVID-19 list. But the reality is that Sinnett almost certainly won't be a factor in 2021 unless he absolutely wows in training camp.
THE KEY SUMMER BATTLE
The reality is the pecking order at quarterback seems pretty clear and the only way that's going to change is if Tagovailoa struggles — and it would have to be really bad — and Brissett shines in training camp and the preseason. There also shouldn't be a battle for the backup job given the differences between Brissett and Sinnett. If we want to get cute, the key "battle" really will be between Tagovailoa and the road to greatness.
BETTER OR WORSE THAN THIS TIME LAST YEAR
Not only did the Dolphins replace Fitzpatrick with Brissett this offseason, they also don't have Josh Rosen anymore after he went to camp last summer. Rosen isn't much of a factor in the equation, though, because he washed out, but it's hard to suggest that Brissett is better than Fitzpatrick at this time. The real key, though, is how much better Tagovailoa is than when he came to camp last year and the likelihood is the Dolphins are in better shape now because of Tua's projected improvement. But it has to show up on the field at some point.
PROJECTED OPENING-DAY STARTER
Tagovailoa. Sure, nothing is etched in stone and maybe it's conceivable that Brissett beats out Tua or that a trade ends up happening, but it's really, really difficult at this time to envision anybody but Tagovailoa taking the first snaps at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 12.