Dolphins make Fitzpatrick Week 1 starter as preseason ends
By BRETT MARTEL
NEW ORLEANS (AP) Miami coach Brian Flores concluded a largely uneventful preseason finale with a significant announcement, naming 14-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick the starting quarterback to open the regular season.
Flores' decision settles for the time being a competition that also featured second-year pro Josh Rosen.
"We felt like this was the best move for this team going into the season," Flores said after a 16-13 exhibition win in New Orleans, during which third-stringer Jake Rudock took all the snaps. "We feel comfortable with him as starting quarterback. He brings the leadership and experience and just an overall knowledge and ability to manage and run this offense and that's what we're looking for. I think he'll do a good job."
Developing Rosen - a 2018 first-round draft choice by Arizona who was traded to Miami during the 2019 draft for a late-second-round pick - remains "a top priority," Flores said. "Sitting, at times, helps your development and hopefully that'll be the case here."
Flores said Rosen "works extremely hard" and is talented, "but playing quarterback in this league it take some time.
"He's in a new offense," Flores continued. "I think he'll get there. I do. I really do ... When? I don't know. A lot of that is up to him. He knows that."
The 36-year-old Fitzpatrick, who played at Harvard, started 10 games in place of Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay during the past two seasons combined. He averaged 295.9 yards passing per game in eight total appearances with the Buccaneers last season.
"I'm always confident in who I am and what I am as a player, and this is where I wanted to be and what I worked to get," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm still playing because I want to be out there on the field and I want to be, in those tough times, in the huddle when we're facing adversity and trying to figure things out together and work through things. That's the joy that I have in this game."
He could be in a lot of challenging situations this season. The Dolphins are in apparent rebuilding mode, with few decorated players on the roster.
Rosen declined to say whether he agreed with Flores' decision, but stressed he understood it and would be supportive.
"When he told me Fitz was going to get the job, he told me I made a lot of good progress. And I think it's only (a matter of) time (before) this team is mine," Rosen said. "I'm a way better quarterback than I was a year ago. I think the future will be pretty bright. I wouldn't say it's a setback, but it's a temporary - not hurdle - but part of a journey."
Tight end Chris Myarick, an undrafted free agent out of Temple, made six catches for 78 yards, including a 30-yard grab down the middle. That set up short TD pass from Rudock to Reese Horn, a 26-year-old former AAF player whose only other NFL experience came in the 2016 preseason with Tennessee, which had signed him as an undrafted rookie out of Division II Indianapolis.
Rudock was 22 of 29 passing for 229 yards and one touchdown without a turnover. He led Miami on four scoring drives, three of which concluded with field goals by Jason Sanders.
Emmanuel Butler caught a 12-yard touchdown pass for New Orleans, demonstrating why Saints coaches appear to be preparing the 6-foot-4 undrafted rookie out of Northern Arizona for a regular role in the passing game.
"He made a really good impression on us," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "He's someone that has good upside."
Veteran running back Jacquizz Rodgers, signed after training camp started, scored a short touchdown to highlight his 33 yards on seven carries. He also caught a pass for 9 yards in his effort to latch on as a reserve behind Alvin Kamara.
Taysom Hill played the whole second half for New Orleans and went 13 of 17 for 100 yards passing and rushed for 35 yards, leading one TD drive and moving the Saints within range of a tying field goal in the final minute.
Wishing to avoid overtime, Payton kept the offense on the field on fourth down, and Hill's final pass, intended for former LSU receiver Travin Dural in the back of the end zone, was batted down by safety Maurice Smith.
Although veteran return specialist Marcus Sherels returned to practice this week, he didn't play at all during the preseason after being sidelined with an undisclosed injury for much of August.
While the Saints brought in Sherels as a free agent, Payton has spoken glowingly recently about Deonte Harris, an undrafted rookie out of Division II Assumption who returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown against the New York Jets in the third preseason game.
Flores took a good look at a pair of young running backs vying for a roster spot. Mark Walton, a 2018 Bengals fourth-round draft choice who was cut by Cincinnati after multiple arrests, carried 12 times for 52 yards. Myles Gaskin, a 2019 seventh-rounder out of Washington, carried eight times for 48 yards.
The Saints had a pair of veteran defenders - recently acquired linebacker Will Compton and defensive back Patrick Robinson - go down in the first half. Both were able to walk to the sideline after being examined by trainers on the field. The Saints did not provide updates on their conditions.
Miami opens its regular season on Sunday, Sept. 8 at home against Baltimore.
New Orleans starts the regular season at home on Monday night, Sept. 9, against Houston.
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Updated August 30, 2019