(Photo of Josh Rosen with Dolphins quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell by Tony Capobianco)
DAVIE – So it begins. The Josh Rosen era? At this point it’s the onset of the audition.
Coach Brian Flores prefers to view it as a competition.
Though few outsiders believe Rosen won’t be behind center when the Dolphins open the 2019 season, it is in the best interest of the franchise that the second-year quarterback acquired from the Arizona Cardinals must show he merits the job.
That is as it should be. If Rosen really has the makings of a franchise quarterback, it should be no sweat to earn the starting job.
If not, it will become apparent to the coaching staff through the course of offseason work, training camp and the exhibition season.
Flores made that point recently and the process began this week with the first week of offseason organized team activities for veterans and rookies.
Tuesday was the first full session open to the media and the largest turnout in years for OTAs – it’s offseason practice! – assembled to get a glimpse of Rosen in action.
For the record, when they began running plays in 7-on-7 drills, veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick was lined up with the starting receiving corps of Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant and Mike Gesicki.
There certainly was a message in that, for Rosen as well as for the media to pass along to the fan base.
Remember, it’s a competition – even if it’s really a charade (wink, wink).
Notably, Fitzpatrick was the sharper quarterback through the course of the session.
When it was Rosen’s turn, he fired a strike over the middle on his first pass. His second was picked off by Sam Eguavoen, a former CFL linebackers and returned to the end zone.
Rosen also fumbled a couple of snaps at the beginning of practice.
None of which, of course, is of any consequence. As Flores said, “We’re not making cuts today.”
It’s May, and much of this rebuilding team is still putting names to faces and learning the way to their respective lockers.
“You kind of underestimate from the outside looking in all the logistical issues from having to have to move and uproot your place,” Rosen said after the workout. “I’m walking into the receivers room thinking it’s the bathroom. But when you step on the field you’ve just got let all that go and just play football.”
Rosen’s twitter account featured a photo from Monday’s session of its smiling namesake under center and the message, “Great to be back on the field and just play football.”
Rosen’s predecessor, Ryan Tannehill, waited until the beginning of his final season in Miami to try to project some personality via social media, but the effort kind of fizzled out – like his tenure.
It was refreshing that the absence of No. 17 in the quarterback corps isn’t due to injury. (Wide receiver Brice Butler now wears Tannehill’s old number).
It was more than time to try something different and it begins with competition (really, it is) between a 37-year-old journeyman and a top-10 draft pick who has already been discarded by the team that traded up to select him and acquired by the Dolphins for a No. 2 draft pick.
The intrigue of a rebuilding season will be in where that leads under the direction of a rookie head coach and staff, many of them with connections to the Patriots’ extended run of success.
“We’re looking for guys who can consistently move the ball down the field,” Flores said of the quarterback competition.
Flores has said that he welcomes players wanting to know the why of things, which has been portrayed as a criticism of Rosen in Arizona.
“I appreciate it. Our meeting room has been really productive, really good,” Rosen said, noting that he’s already picked up valuable guidance from quarterback coaches Jim Caldwell and Jerry Schuplinski.
“It’s always about progress,” he said. “I just want to keep taking steps forward and I think they’re helping me do that.”
During Tuesday’s 90-minute session, with players in shorts, Rosen showed some zip and the ability to connect with receivers in coverage.
He lobbed a deep ball on the mark that should have gone for a touchdown but it slipped through the hands of Parker. Some things don’t change.
“Obviously, he’s a talented player – big arm. But like everyone else he’s got a long way to go – [on] fundamentals, technique, playbook,” Flores said of Rosen, who did display some pocket presence in dancing away from a rusher and completing a short pass.
This week is about formulating early impressions. Drawing firm conclusions is still months away.
As Flores noted, this stage of the offseason program is still voluntary. Veteran safety Reshad Jones elected not to attend as he did during the first offseason minicamp last month.
But for most of the 91 players on the roster, the audition is underway.
“Everybody is getting evaluated in this building every day. Period,” Flores said. “That’s just what it is.”
When it comes to the quarterback sweepstakes, that’s a good thing, no matter who ends up winning it (wink, wink).
One way or another the Dolphins will find out if he is the player to lead them into the future or whether they’ll need to dip back into the talent pool and find someone else next year.
Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns