With no quarterback in the draft, the Dolphins were searching to add one more before the start of Organized Team Activities this month and did so today by claiming Bryce Petty off waivers from the Jets.
Petty, who turns 27 soon, joins David Fales and Brock Osweiler in the competition to earn the backup job behind Ryan Tannehill.
The Jets drafted him in the fourth round in 2015, making him the fifth quarterback selected that year. He appeared in 10 games, including seven starts, and posted a passer rating of 57.7. He completed 53.1 percent of his attempts, averaged 135.3 yards per game and threw four touchdown passes against 10 interceptions. He was also sacked 21 times.
Petty became particularly expendable once New York drafted Sam Darnold at No. 3 overall last week.
In South Florida, Petty is best known for a play in 2016 when Dolphins defensive linemen Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh converged on him in the backfield for an incredibly violent sack. The Dolphins had a photo of that hit on the wall of their auditorium.
The travel won’t be as brutal as last season, but the Dolphins’ degree of difficulty will still be high in 2018.
The NFL released their schedule for the upcoming season tonight, and it includes no games outside of the Eastern and Central Time Zones, no international games, no crazy road swings and, wonderfully, an actual bye week.
Now Miami just hopes the plan doesn’t get reshuffled like it did last year, when Hurricane Irma’s approach changed the course of the season.
“We’re just looking forward to, hopefully, just having a normal season,” team president Tom Garfinkel said recently.
The upcoming campaign begins with a rarity. The Dolphins will host the Titans on Sept. 9 for their first home opener since 2014. Thanks to last year’s Week 1 game against Tampa Bay being moved to November and the team starting with trips to Los Angeles, New York and London, Miami opened on the road in five of the last six seasons.
This season the team gets its bye in Week 11, giving it a rest before the final six games.
It’s a balanced schedule in terms of home and away, with the Dolphins playing only one stretch of back-to-back weeks on the road.
Seven of their first nine games are against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year, which could be important for a roster that needs time to solidify itself. The flip side is that Miami faces a three-game run in December against teams that were in the conference title round last season: home against the Patriots in Week 14, at Minnesota in Week 15 and home against Jacksonville in Week 16.
The exact date of the Jaguars game is yet to be determined. The Dolphins will host Jacksonville on Dec. 22 (a Saturday) or Dec. 23 depending on television considerations.
The opener is usually the No. 1 concern when the schedule comes out. After that comes the fretful search for cold-weather games.
The Dolphins’ three AFC East road games set up reasonably well for them with a visit to the Jets in Week 2 and Patriots in Week 4. Likewise, those teams don’t come to Miami Gardens in the first half of the season when the local weather is at its muggiest.
Their annual trek to Buffalo comes in the season finale, Dec. 30, in part because Miami asked to close the season on the road. The Orange Bowl is a college football national semifinal this year and will take place at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 29.
Last season, the stadium hosted the Orange Bowl the night before Miami’s Week 17 home game against the Bills, and the tight turnaround is something the organization would like to avoid if possible—especially it being part of the college playoffs this year.
The Patriots come to South Florida on Dec. 9, the Jets arrive in Week 9 and the Bills get off easy with a Week 13 trip.
Then there’s the rare appearance at Lambeau Field, which falls in Week 10. The Dolphins will play at Green Bay in mid-November, which isn’t the worst outcome, but it’s certainly late enough in the year for it to be nasty up there. The average low in Green Bay that time of year is 29 degrees.
The only other outdoor road game is Week 5 at Cincinnati, which should be comfortable. When the Dolphins play at Minnesota (Week 15) and Indianapolis (Week 12), both of those are dome teams. The Houston game in Week 8 will also be indoors.
The matchup with the Texans is also the Dolphins’ only planned primetime appearance. They’ll play in front of a national audience as part of the NFL’s mandate that each team does one Thursday night game. Their Sunday games can be flexed based on how compelling the matchups are late in the season.
Miami gets some nice perks at home with Oakland having to travel cross-country in Week 3 and a back-to-back against the Bears and Lions (Weeks 7 and 8). Chicago and Detroit will learn the hard way that October is still considered summer down here.
If South Florida has hurricane issues in September and October, it won’t be as easy to reschedule as last year. None of the four teams the Dolphins host in the first half of the season share their bye week.
Here’s the Dolphins’ full 2018 schedule:
Week 1: Sun., Sept. 9, 1 p.m. vs. Tennessee Titans
Week 2: Sun., Sept. 16, 1 p.m. at New York Jets
Week 3: Sun., Sept. 23, 1 p.m. vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 4: Sun., Sept. 30, 1 p.m. at New England Patriots
Week 5: Sun., Oct. 7, 1 p.m. at Cincinnati Bengals
Week 6: Sun., Oct. 14, 1 p.m. vs. Chicago Bears
Week 7: Sun., Oct. 21, 1 p.m. vs. Detroit Lions
Week 8: Thu., Oct. 25, 8:20 p.m. at Houston Texans
Week 9: Sun., Nov. 4, 1 p.m. vs. New York Jets
Week 10: Sun., Nov. 11, 1 p.m. at Green Bay Packers
Week 11: Bye
Week 12: Sun., Nov. 25, 1 p.m. at Indianapolis Colts
Week 13: Sun., Dec. 2, 1 p.m. vs. Buffalo Bills
Week 14: Sun., Dec. 9, 1 p.m. vs. New England Patriots
Week 15: Sun, Dec. 16, 1 p.m. at Minnesota Vikings
Week 16: Dec. 22 or 23 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 17: Sun., Dec. 30, 1 p.m. at Buffalo Bills
The Dolphins also have a tentative schedule for the preseason:
Week 1: Aug. 9-13 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Week 2: Aug. 16-20 at Carolina Panthers Week 3: Aug. 23-26 vs. Baltimore Ravens Week 4: Aug. 30 or 31 at Atlanta Falcons
DAVIE—This is the simplest thing in the world: The Dolphins’ three choices with the No. 11 pick are stay there, trade up or trade down.
One factor that could complicate that decision, though, is the massive Jets-Colts trade that took place a month ago. New York gave up three second-round picks, two of which are this year, in order to move up from sixth to third. That’s a drastic spike from what the traditional Jimmy Johnson trade chart says is equal value, but Miami vice president Mike Tannenbaum doesn’t believe it will inflate the market for trading picks.
“Obviously, three (second-round picks) for three spots, it looks like one team is targeting something,” said Tannenbaum, who surely is aware of the widespread assumption that the Jets are angling for one of the top four quarterbacks. “That doesn’t necessarily affect the rest of the trades. Sometimes trades before the draft have one set of criteria, whereas once you’re in the heat of the moment…
“My view with that is the trade chart is a great guideline, but at the end of the day, if two teams want to get something done, they’re going to get something done.”
Johnson’s chart, which uses a point system to assign values to every pick, says one high second-round pick would be almost enough to pay for the jump from No. 6 to No. 3.
The Dolphins rely heavily on Brandon Shore, the senior director of football administration, and Director of Analytics Dennis Lock to track those trades and establish what the team should expect to give up or receive if it explores making moves with its draft picks.
Tannenbaum remains open to moving up or down and has been taking calls from teams this week. Given the Dolphins’ situation, it seems ideal to do one or the other rather than stay at No. 11.
In that spot, Miami is unlikely to get one of the four prized quarterbacks. Moving into the top five, however, would cost the team an enormous amount of assets that it probably can’t afford to surrender considering how many holes are on the roster.
One major position of need is tight end, and No. 11 is too much of a reach for Dallas Goedert or Hayden Hurst, the top two prospects this year. If the Dolphins could move back into the 20s and get some extra picks in return, they’d be in a good spot to grab one of those two.
ORLANDO—The NFL’s annual meeting is underway at the Ritz-Carlton in suburban Orlando, and the Dolphins will be in the spotlight.
In addition to coach Adam Gase and vice president Mike Tannenbaum taking questions for the first time since unloading some of the team’s biggest stars, owner Stephen Ross will hold a rare media availability at some point during the week.
Ross caught heat this month for saying all of his players would stand for the national anthem this season, then backtracking the next day to say he would not institute such a policy. The Dolphins briefly had a rule last season requiring players to stand or remain out of sight, which Gase said was his decision before nixing the idea after Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas met with him to voice their disagreement.
There is nothing on the agenda as far as working on a league rule about player protests during the anthem, but it will be a prominent topic at the meetings. Ross is on the 10-man Social Justice Working Group, which includes owners as well as current and former players.
Ross also serves on the Finance, NFL Network and International Committees.
He caused a stir at last year’s meetings in Phoenix by being the only owner to vote against the Raiders’ proposed move to Las Vegas.
“I think you’d only move a team if you really exhausted all the possibilities,” he said. “I don’t believe they did.”
One significant vote scheduled this week is on a proposal that will redefine what constitutes a catch. There have been several confusing plays in the last few years, as well as a controversy over Steelers tight end Jesse James against the Patriots during the 2017 regular season and a touchdown by Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz in the recent Super Bowl.
The Competition Committee recommended altering the rule to clarify that a catch is confirmed when a player “performs any act common to the game,” also known as a making a football move, or clearly controls the ball long enough to do so.
If the player hits the ground, does not have control over the ball at that time and the ball touches the field, it is still an incomplete pass. However, as long as he has clear control at the moment of impact with the turf, it would no longer be required that he maintain that control through hitting the ground.
Any rule change needs 24 of the 32 owners to vote in favor of it for it to pass.
Another item on the agenda is a proposal from the Jets to make pass interference a 15-yard penalty rather than a spot foul. Currently, the ball is placed where the penalty occurs with no limit on how much yardage that entails.
Gase hinted that he doesn’t like that idea.
“It probably changes for me if I’m on offense or defense,” he said. “If I was on defense, I’d be excited about it. I’d tell them any time you get beat, just tackle the guy. It’s only going to be a 15-yard penalty. If I’m on offense, I’m probably not real happy.”
Considering he’s been an offensive coach his entire career, it’s easy to see where he stands on New York’s suggestion.
There are 10 proposed changes to the playing rules and 17 related to bylaws and other procedures. Some of them are as minor as eliminating the rule that teams must attempt the point-after when they score a game-winning touchdown with no time left in regulation and giving both teams access to the NFL’s response to an inquiry about officiating from a game.
The Dolphins are putting forward a bylaw proposal making it no longer necessary for a non-vested player to be played on waivers when teams cut from 90 to 53 at the end of the preseason. That idea includes tweaks to the way the Injured Reserve list is treated during the preseason.
The overall point of Miami’s proposal is to give teams more roster flexibility during the preseason.
MIAMI GARDENS—There’s no high-end wardrobe with Matt Moore, no carefully crafted image.
Minutes after coming off the bench to lead the Dolphins to a two-touchdown comeback against the Jets, Moore strolled into the press conference room—usually a fashion runway for players—and leaned casually on the podium in a polo shirt and a pair of jeans. He glanced up from under his California trucker hat and said what everyone at Hard Rock Stadium was thinking.
“That was fun, man,” he grinned.
It’s always more fun with Moore, and he reminded South Florida of that Sunday by rallying the Dolphins for a 31-28 win over the Jets. Jay Cutler, the more accomplished player and preferred quarterback of Adam Gase, left with a chest injury early in the third quarter as Miami trailed 21-14.
Moore, who hasn’t taken first-team snaps in practice since the preseason, came out firing. “I don’t know how else to do it,” he said. “Just go.” He threw an interception on a deep ball late in the third quarter, which set up a Jets scoring drive and ultimately left the Dolphins down 28-14 with 13 minutes left in the game.
That didn’t bother Moore. Nothing does.
“He just comes in and does his thing,” said Kenny Stills, who caught both of Moore’s fourth-quarter touchdown passes. “He throws it to the guy that’s open and trusts us to make a play.
“He’s just a true quarterback. Talk to anybody who’s ever played the game—There’s guys that step in the huddle and you just know they know what they’re doing. He’s one of those guys that when he steps in, you listen and do what he says and you know, hey, you might get an opportunity to make a big play here.”
There was an undeniable spark when Moore took the field, and not just the crowd roaring. He heard that, by the way. “I’m aware,” he said of his popularity. Moore injected energy into the offense from the jump, and six of the Dolphins’ eight longest plays came off his arm.
Miami set its season high in points and yardage (357), and Moore’s passing total in less than one half was more than Cutler put up in the entirety of games against the Saints, Falcons and Titans.
Ultimately Moore’s time as the No. 1 quarterback is likely to be little more than a midseason fling, and Cutler is expected to reclaim the job as soon as he’s healthy.
While there’s nothing definitive yet, ESPN reported the team fears he has two cracked ribs. That would probably mean Moore gets the start Thursday at Baltimore and maybe the following week against the Raiders, but it’s hard to see Gase keeping Cutler on the bench once he’s cleared to return. And, to be fair, Gase’s history suggests he’s got impeccable judgment on these decisions.
So enjoy the Matt Moore Show while it’s here.
Cutler engineered a similar comeback a week earlier against Atlanta, leading the Dolphins back from a 17-0 hole to win 20-17, and there really wasn’t much difference in their overall numbers Sunday. Cutler completed 12 of 16 passes; Moore was 13 for 21. Moore outdid him in yardage 188-138, and the passer ratings came out to 114.1 for Cutler and 102.9 for more.
It’s a negligible difference in performance, but there hasn’t been nearly the electricity in this offense under Cutler. While Gase has enough credibility when it comes to quarterbacks that he deserves the fan base’s trust when it comes to picking between the two, there’s no argument Moore’s got the likeability.
He’s the guy everyone wants to grab a beer with whether he’s a pro athlete or not, and he seems like a beloved teammate. He’s got infectious enthusiasm, and his confidence pulses through the huddle.
“Guys love him on both sides of the ball,” safety Reshad Jones said. “He brings the energy to the offensive side of the ball. Everybody loves Matt.”
MIAMI GARDENS–The Dolphins believe quarterback Jay Cutler suffered two cracked ribs in today’s 31-28 win over the Jets, ESPN reported.
Cutler exited after taking a hard hit from New York linebacker Jordan Jenkins in the third quarter and was grabbing the left side of his chest as he headed to the locker room. Matt Moore replaced him and led the team to a comeback from 28-14 down.
Gase said after the game the medical staff had an idea of what Cutler’s injury was, but needed an MRI and other tests to confirm. He expected to have clarity on his status by tonight.
“I didn’t really get into it with them,” Gase said. “It’s something with his chest – the chest and ribs area… It’s just hard for me to say anything right now.”
While it is possible to play through a cracked rib, that’s going to be especially challenging for Cutler given the short turnaround for Thursday night’s game in Baltimore. ESPN reported that the team expects him to miss at least two weeks, which would leave Moore as the starter against the Ravens and for the Nov. 5 home game against the Raiders, and possibly beyond.
Cutler completed 12 of 16 passes for 138 yards with two touchdowns and one interception before leaving the game. Moore went 13 for 21 and piled up 188 yards to go with two touchdowns and a pick.
MIAMI GARDENS—The thrill was back in the building for the first time this season.
The Dolphins rallied from a double-digit deficit for the second straight week, this time taking down the Jets 31-28 at Hard Rock Stadium, and did it with Matt Moore jolting the offense out of a previously monotonous afternoon. Jay Cutler went out in the third quarter with an unspecified chest injury, and Moore brought Miami back from down 28-14 to win it on Cody Parkey’s field goal with 22 seconds left.
Here are five instant takeaways from the Dolphins’ stunning victory, which moved them to 4-2:
1. Moore’s fine. He’s not amazing, but he can get the job done.
There’s a reason the Dolphins weren’t interested in Cutler the first time around, when they still had Ryan Tannehill and felt good about Moore as their backup. He did throw an interception, but was excellent otherwise. He completed 13 of 21 passes, racked up 188 yards and hit Kenny Stills for two touchdown passes. He started the game-winning drive from his own 25-yard line. Just as he did late last season when Tannehill went down, Moore gave Miami a much-needed boost of energy in the midst of uncertainty.
2. When you roll with a rookie cornerback, getting burnt is part of the deal.
Third-round pick Cordrea Tankersley has handled the starting job well, but this was coming eventually. Rookie corners get picked on frequently, and the Jets got him on a pair of touchdowns in the first half. Jermaine Kearse blew by him for a 29-yard catch down the right sideline on New York’s opening possession, and Robby Anderson got behind him for an 18-yarder at the end of the first quarter. Miami is committed to Tankersley, though, and proved it by sticking with him the rest of the afternoon. It’ll take more than one bad half to shake their faith.
3. Something has to change with the playing field at Hard Rock Stadium.
With no rain Sunday, there’s no good reason why the grass was so slippery for the Dolphins and Jets. Players had footing issues even before kickoff, and those problems continued throughout the game. If the field is always going to be like this after a Miami Hurricanes game (they played Saturday), that’s going to be a big problem. There is a UM home game the day before the Dolphins host the Raiders and Buccaneers in November.
4. Josh McCown is better than Cutler.
It sure looks like the Jets lucked out when Cutler’s flight got canceled and he couldn’t make it to his free agent visit. Taking Sunday’s injury out of it, McCown’s been having the better season of the two and he’s done it with a lesser supporting cast. He was outpacing Cutler in completion percentage (by a lot), yardage (also a big margin), passer rating and touchdown passes, then came out blazing against the Dolphins with 148 yards in the first quarter. McCown, who is four years older than Cutler, completed 16 of 26 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns with one pick for a 109.9 passer rating.
5. What’s up with Miami’s running game?
For two years, Jay Ajayi has gone back and forth from looking like one of the best running backs in the league to being someone fades into the background. Coming off his season-high 130 rushing yards against Atlanta the week before, Ajayi managed 51 yards on 23 carries in the Jets game. Collectively, the Dolphins averaged 2.1 yards per carry against New York. The offensive line had issues with Mike Pouncey and Laremy Tunsil spending time on the sideline with injuries, but they’ve been through that before. If the Dolphins are going to be a powerful offense, they need a reliable ground attack.
MIAMI GARDENS—While some Dolphins staffers have been preparing material on the Ravens over the past few days, the coaching staff and players have been working exclusively on the Jets.
The quick turnaround between today’s home game and Thursday night’s kickoff at Baltimore forces the Dolphins to cram a week’s worth of preparation and recovery into three days. Miami coach Adam Gase will begin combing through Ravens film likely within a couple hours after the end of the New York game.
“A bunch of us just end up coming back to the office and just start working on the next one,” he said. “It’s tough because no matter what happens, win or lose, you’ve got to shake (the Jets game) and move on to the next one. It’s a very short period of time.”
Gase said there’s no point in his staff giving him any advance scouting material because, “I’ll forget everything.”
In a typical game week, Dolphins players are in the building Monday for meetings, get Tuesday off, then practice Wednesday through Friday. The team does a walk-through on Saturday and travels if necessary.
That’s impossible this week, and Miami is expected to get on the field for practice only Tuesday. Given how little time players will have had to heal from today’s game, that will probably be more of a walk-through than a practice.
One of the reasons the Dolphins don’t usually practice before Wednesday is because players aren’t usually feeling up to it until they’ve had two full days to recover. Defensive end Cameron Wake said last week it’s impossible for a player to be fully ready physically for a Thursday night game.
“You’re cutting corners all over the place and you try to keep everything as tight as possible,” Gase said. “You just don’t give your players a ton of stuff. You try to narrow it down as best you can. Anytime you play a team like (the Ravens), offensively, it’s tough because they do a lot of stuff and they can get to a lot of things very quickly. They can change up on you.
“For offense, some defenses don’t have to prepare as hard as what we would have to do for next week because maybe an offense is a little bit more cookie cutter, or maybe there’s something that a team’s chameleon all over the place and that’s when it gets tough for your defense.”
The Dolphins have not won a Thursday night game since winning at home against Buffalo in 2014.
DAVIE—Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake likes to say he’d be happy playing a football game any day, any place (even the moon, he said once), but it sounds like he wouldn’t mind seeing Thursday night games go away.
As Miami prepares to play a home game against the Jets followed by a visit to Baltimore four days later, Wake knows it’s a given that everyone playing in that game won’t be at full strength.
“To be very honest, nobody is going to be ready the way they like to be,” he said. “They’ll be as ready as you can be on Thursday night. I guess it’s a great money-maker maybe for the league? I don’t know. You guys probably know more about that than I do.
“I think it’s a little much for the body, but again, the people who know that (are a small number) and the people who enjoy it and benefit from it are 50 million times that.”
The Ravens, by the way, are at Minnesota on Sunday before returning home to face the Dolphins.
Players and coaches have often voiced frustration since Thursday night games became a regular part of the schedule. Coaches hate the constraints it puts on their preparation (it’s basically impossible to have a real practice prior unless a team is willing to compromise player rest), and players feel they aren’t fully recovered from the previous game.
For Wake, the latter point is the reason those games aren’t the same quality as ones on Sunday or Monday.
“People always ask me, ‘How do you feel after a game?’” he said. “It’s hard to explain, but I always say, ‘If you’ve ever been in a car accident, that’s probably as close as you’re going to get.’ To me, the hardest thing about playing in the NFL is… recovering from Sunday to next Sunday, that space in between, because once you play one game, you’re never 100 percent.
“It’s always how much closer can I get to 100 percent than the next guy, or as quickly as I can, to be able to play.”
DAVIE—There are two dangerous games football fans love to play, and coaches highly recommend quitting them.
The first is the annual tradition—taking place as early as April—of going through the schedule and marking down wins and losses. The second is applying the transitive property of equality to use the result of one game to predict another. If the Dolphins beat the Falcons, for example, and the Falcons beat the Patriots, surely Miami will beat the Patriots as well.
Some call that a hobby. Others call it a fool’s errand.
“That’s the worst thing you could do,” Dolphins associate head coach Darren Rizzi cautioned. “Every game is an individual event… There’s a million examples you can give of how that doesn’t work out, so I just think it’s a bad way to look at it.”
This week’s opponent, the Jets, are a prime illustration of why neither of those activities is productive. Predicting which version of this team would show up Sunday for a Week 7 showdown at Hard Rock Stadium (1 p.m., Fox) certainly required several revisions. New York looked like it went into the season intending to tank, and that theory seemed to be confirmed when it lost its first two games by a combined score of 66-32.
The Dolphins wouldn’t admit this if they were thinking it, and perhaps they really weren’t, but many on the outside thought they’d demolish the Jets when they visited MetLife Stadium in September. Before they knew it, they were down 20-0 and scrambling to salvage some shred of dignity with a late touchdown.
Maybe it was a fluke, maybe not. The Jets went on to win their next two, a pair of squeakers against the Jaguars and Browns, and threatened to take down the Patriots before losing by a touchdown last week.
“Every team is good on any particular day,” Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said.
The NFL season isn’t even halfway over, and the forecast on New York (3-3) )has already proven to be way off. If that’s true of the Jets, it’s equally pointless to project what any future opponents will be by the time they roll around on the Dolphins’ schedule.
Miami (3-2) was thought to be heading into perilous stretch of the schedule starting last week against Atlanta, but some of these teams aren’t what everyone expected them to be.
Of the next four opponents, Carolina is the only one currently above .500. Next week’s game at Baltimore doesn’t look so daunting with the Ravens sitting at 3-3, and neither does the Sunday Night Football primetime showcase against the 3-4 Raiders the following week. Looking any farther out than that runs the risk of miscalculating how much a team can change over the course of the season, something divisional opponents realize every year.
“Very common,” Rizzi said. “A lot of things happen. You grow as a team, or you go the other way as a team. Injuries obviously factor in, (and) the bottom of your roster changes. All of those things are going to change. A team in the beginning of the year, as far as November, December goes, it could be completely different.”
That’s been the case for the Dolphins, too. Think how many variables were at play over the course of last season, when they looked dead five games in before reeling off six straight. Then their course veered sharply again when Ryan Tannehill suffered a season-ending knee injury and Matt Moore took over at quarterback.
There are already signs Miami isn’t the same team it was during a dreadful three-week lull that saw the offense produce two offensive touchdowns, and a big showing against the Jets could change the way other teams view the Dolphins coming up on their schedule.