Maybe I need my head examined, too.
I think this should work out fine.
The Dolphins should get through the “Punt, Pass and Concussed” part of their schedule without their season sinking, at least if they are who they say they are, starting with Sunday’s game against the 4-1 Minnesota Vikings.
Yes, that’s right. The Vikings are 4-1 and atop the NFC North. Holders of the best receiver (Justin Jefferson) and running back (Dalvin Cook) tandem in the NFL.
And coach Mike McDaniel decided to start seventh-round rookie Skylar Thompson because eight-year veteran Teddy Bridgewater was in concussion protocol all week despite not having a concussion — let’s not go down that wormhole again — and barely practiced.
It’s a bold decision by McDaniel. It’s unorthodox, too, considering Bridgewater ranked 12th last year in quarterback ratings. Is it the right decision?
Left tackle Terron Armstead misses practice every week with a toe injury and plays on Sunday. But there’s a severe drop-off behind Armstead. And, yes, it’s an apples-to-quarterback comparison with a tackle.
Still, McDaniel seems to be saying the talent disparity isn’t so great at quarterback as the experience suggests. A prepped Thompson is better than an un-prepped Bridgewater. It’s the roster upset of the year, if it plays out that way.
Good teams win in the short term with limited quarterbacks. Dallas is 3-0 with backup Cooper Rush because he didn’t make mistakes and let the defense win it. New England rookie, third-stringer Bailey Zappe, game-managed an easy win against Detroit last week. His offense scored just one touchdown. See how it’s done?
The question is if the Dolphins can do it this way Sunday. Their defense has taken a step back this year — not the progressive step forward it expected. They’re 28th in points allowed, 23rd in yards allowed and 30th with a measly four takeaways.
“The way to stop Minnesota is to pressure (quarterback) Kirk Cousins,” a veteran NFL scout said this week. “You don’t even have to hit him. Just get close enough to make him feel you. He gets rattled.”
The Dolphins rank tied for 17th in sacks this year. But, again, that’s a disappointment after the manner they harried quarterbacks during a seven-game win streak to close last season. Defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah and Jaelan Phillips have just one sack each.
Now come Jefferson, who leads the league in receiving, and Cook, a Miami native playing his first NFL game at home.
“It’s just a matter of us doing our job and doing our thing,” defensive tackle Zach Sieler said.
Can special teams start doing their job and their thing, too? They rank in the bottom-third of all categories. That’s often the first indicator of a team’s depth — or lack thereof in this case.
Finally, there’s the rushing game to support Thompson, the third-stringer making his first NFL start. It showed life for the first time last week. Raheem Mostert ran for 113 yards on 18 carries. That’s about all you want to ride him, as he sat out practice with a knee issue this week.
“The team believes in Skylar,” McDaniel said this week.
But can it help him? That’s Sunday’s story. It’s a new world for Thompson, working with the first team, addressing the media, dealing with 14 family members coming to town. He’s a long way from Kansas State.
Starting three quarterbacks in three weeks isn’t what anyone scripted. But here’s the out card for Sunday: Even with a third-consecutive loss to fall to 3-3, the damage should be minimal in the big picture.
Their next three games are the dregs of the league in Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago. They start getting quarterbacks back and should reclaim their season then. Minnesota, too, beefed up its record with close wins against Detroit and Chicago.
All eyes are on Thompson on Sunday, but veteran Dolphins fans know to look at the larger team here. Don Shula won a lot of games with Hall of Famers John Unitas, Bob Griese and Dan Marino. He also went to the Super Bowl with David Woodley and broke the all-time wins record with third-string Doug Pederson.
Good teams win with limited quarterbacks.
Are the Dolphins a good team?