DAVIE — When Dolphins coach Adam Gase insisted last month that he won’t be making any calls to veteran free agent quarterbacks if Ryan Tannehill gets hurt again, it might have been difficult to understand why he was so resolute about going forward with the backups already on the roster.
First there’s David Fales, a 27-year-old who’s been on three teams and played in three games since being drafted in the sixth round out of San Jose State in 2014.
Then there’s Brock Osweiler. The same age as Fales, he’s on his fourth team and barely has more career touchdowns (31) than interceptions (27).
If all else fails, there’s Bryce Petty. He was a disaster with the Jets and seems highly unlikely to make the Dolphins’ roster.
So which of those three gives Gase so much confidence? The way he’s talked this offseason, it appears to be Fales.
“He just keeps getting better,” Gase said of him Tuesday, three weeks into the team’s offseason practices. “He’s making a lot of plays. I think he’s utilizing the guys he’s working with and I think getting to go with Albert (Wilson), Jakeem (Grant) and Isaiah (Ford) and Drew (Morgan), they’ve all been in this offense now – expect for Albert – for two or three years, so guys know what to do.
“He doesn’t have to worry about telling anybody what to do or dealing with any rookies at wide receiver. You’re able to just do you job. I think he’s doing a good job of finding the open guy and completing passes.”
Fales was with the Dolphins last offseason, too, and never had much chance at making the final cut. Miami was prepared to go into the year with Tannehill and Matt Moore as the only quarterbacks on the roster, and when Tannehill blew out his knee, Gase was content with Cutler and Moore.
He kept in touch with Fales, though. He worked out in California hoping someone would call, but went unsigned. When Cutler suffered broken ribs last October, Gase brought Fales back as the No. 2 behind Moore.
Miami kept him the rest of the season as a contingency because of Cutler’s age and Moore being battered by injuries. He played mop-up minutes against the Broncos in early December and took over for Cutler in the first quarter of a meaningless season finale against the Bills.
Gase would dispute labeling that game meaningless, actually. From his standpoint, Buffalo certainly wasn’t treating the game that way, so whatever Fales accomplished in that afternoon was worthwhile to him.
His line: 29 for 42, 265 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a passer rating of 83.9.
There’s nothing amazing about that, but it’s certainly above the line of what’s expected from a backup quarterback.
“It was definitely encouraging,” said Bo Hardegree, his position coach. “He did some things that you don’t get to see in practice with pocket presence. I wasn’t surprised at some things that he did, making some plays with his legs. He does a really good job of getting the ball out fast because he is a very smart person.
“It’s good for Adam Gase to be able to call plays knowing, again, that he’s not going to put us in a losing situation. He’s going to get the ball out of his hands and we’re going to stay on schedule – first down, second down, first down, second down. That’s what we try to do.”
The question on Fales, then, is why has he been a journeyman if he’s got such a promising makeup? He spent his first two years on Chicago’s bench (Gase was his offensive coordinator there in 2015), then had a brief stop with the Ravens before coming back to the Bears in 2016.
What’s held him back?
“Overthinking,” Gase said.
It was a puzzling answer considering how often Gase credits Fales’ intelligence and ability to make prudent decisions in pressure-packed situations that would rush other quarterbacks into mistakes.
Thinking is good, but thinking too much can be costly. The balance is so delicate that it’s the difference between being an NFL starter and bouncing from team to team as Fales has.
“He can process a lot in his brain, and (we’re) just making sure that he just sticks with what we’re doing and don’t go too far outside the box,” Gase said. “Sometimes he’ll take a couple of extra steps that those other guys aren’t ready for. Sometimes he just (needs to) run the play and execute it.”
If Fales can find the sweet spot Gase is describing, it sounds like it’s his job to lose.
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