First it was quarterback Ryan Tannehill rolling out of the pocket during practice. Then it was middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan during punt coverage in the preseason opener against Atlanta. A tale of two knees. Both players were expected to play a significant role in the upcoming season, and now their seasons are already over. The injury bug has taken a bite out of the Miami Dolphins. So, who is next?
What if, God forbid, Jay Cutler goes down? That would leave Miami with the all-too-familiar Matt Moore. Moore has proven to be more than capable, but if he were to take over the reins, who would back him up? Why, none other than Brandon Doughty and David Fales of course. Let’s take a look at the Dolphin’s depth under center.
Moore threw for 721 yards and completed 63.2 percent of his passes in four games played last season after Tannehill’s injury. Moore also threw eight touchdowns to three interceptions for a QBR of 81.7.
Matt Moore is a high-quality backup quarterback in the NFL. Fellow teammates have confidence in him. They truly felt as though the Dolphins still had a chance to make a playoff run even when Ryan Tannehill suffered a knee injury late last season. Moore has played well in flashes. He was able to keep Miami in last season’s playoff game against Pittsburgh, going 29 for 36 for 289 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception. However, he was not able to get over the hump and defeat the Steelers. Moore is willing to take a hit in order to keep his team in the game. This style of play has led to respect in the locker room.
Moore looks great in rollout packages. He can sling the ball and shows some zip on his throws when he needs to. Moore can also put some air on the ball and shows nice touch at times. He is mobile enough to move in and out of the pocket in order to extend the play and allow for a receiver to create separation. Moore also has a decade of experience under his belt.
Moore just turned 33. His gun-slinging, roll-out style won’t last very long as he cannot take many more hits. Playing safer would be in the best interest of the team in case of an injury to Cutler. One area that he can work on is staying in the pocket and stepping up to throw the long ball. It seems as though his best plays come from outside of the pocket, which is riskier and limits the targets he can throw to. He can also work on being more consistent.
While at Western Kentucky University he led the FBS in passing yards and touchdowns in 2015 (5,055 and 48, respectively). Doughty threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns against LSU’s vaunted defense in 2015.
Doughty has only been in the NFL for one year and has not played in a regular season game. His college stats and game tape will have to do for now. Doughty comes from a spread system where he’s used to the pitch-and-catch style of play. He holds numerous passing records at WKU and posted a 27-11 record as a starter. He threw a nice arcing ball to Leonte Carroo for a touchdown in the preseason opener versus Atlanta.
Ball security and decision-making in college were strengths for Doughty, as he threw for 97 touchdowns and only 19 interceptions over his last two seasons. Doughty showed the propensity to truly master the spread offense in college, he can get the ball out quickly and into the hands of his playmakers. With this year’s receiving unit mainly comprised of Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, and DeVante Parker, Doughty could do some damage if head coach Adam Gase creates the right packages for him.
Doughty lacks serious arm talent. His strength lies in dink and dunk type of passes in the spread system, not heaving the ball downfield with some zip on it. Doughty threw a weak, floating pass while rolling to his left that resulted in an interception against Atlanta in the preseason opener. He also had a tendency to stare down his receivers in college. His lack of experience in making reads and going through his progressions from under center plays is also a weakness. He will have to adjust to the NFL style.
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While at San Jose State University, Fales threw for 66 touchdowns to 22 interceptions over two seasons. Fales threw for over 4,100 yards in each of those seasons, with an average completion percentage of 68.3.
Fales is in his first year with the Dolphins. He, like Doughty, has very limited experience in the NFL to study. He completed two passes on five attempts for the Chicago Bears in 2016. That’s it for his NFL regular season experience. As for his experience in the preseason, he threw a terrific long ball to Damore’ea Stringfellow that resulted in a 99 yard touchdown that ended up being the game-clincher.
Fales does not lose much accuracy even on intermediate to deep throws. He is extremely confident in his throws and can complete passes into tight windows. His touchdown pass to Francis Owusu versus Atlanta in the preseason opener is a great example of the zip Fales can put on the ball. Fales can also extend plays and does a good job of sensing pressure in the pocket.
His confidence can be a double-edged sword, as he is not particularly risk-averse. Fales tried to do too much and threw a weak pass while rolling out that resulted in an interception against Atlanta. He makes risky throws at times because he trusts them to fit in the tightest of windows.
The sample size for this analysis was limited due to the fact that two of the subjects are quite early in their respective careers. Some of their questionable decisions could potentially be a result of them trying to do too much in hopes of impressing the coaching staff. Similarly, the questionable throws that Moore has made can be attributed to the fact that he is willing to leave it all on the field and take risks, especially in a playoff game.
The plays that Doughty and Fales made during the preseason opener must be taken with a grain of salt since they were against reserves in an exhibition game. The good news is that this trio is aggressive in their style of play. They are willing to sling the ball around, take some risks, and extend plays in order to give the Dolphins a chance to come up big. That is great news considering our young talent at wide receiver.
However, they are known to go to the well one too many times and these high-risk, high-reward plays eventually turn into costly interceptions. Hopefully they can continue to develop under head coach Adam Gase and they will see the field once they are ready.