Dolphins don't put tanking speculation to rest after horrendous first half vs. Jaguars

On the bright side, Ryan Fitzpatrick had a nice 28-yard pass to tight end Mike Gesicki in the first half on Thursday night.

The bad news? That play accounted for more than half of Miami’s first-half yards. They had 19 yards on their other 23 offensive plays before halftime.

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There were stories over the offseason that the Dolphins were planning to tank for a good draft pick in 2020. The team denied that it was tanking, though it also didn’t do a lot to help the roster in the offseason. The way Miami played against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, with a national audience on a Fox broadcast watching no less, won’t convince anyone they’re not tanking.

It turns out, new coach Brian Flores might have more than 99 problems.

Josh Allen of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates after tackling Ryan Fitzpatrick. (Getty Images)
Josh Allen of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates after tackling Ryan Fitzpatrick. (Getty Images)

Ryan Fitzpatrick has horrible first half

Fitzpatrick came into the third preseason game looking like the clear leader to start in Week 1. He was obviously ahead of Josh Rosen, who was the backup on Thursday night.

Not everything that went wrong on Thursday night was Fitzpatrick’s fault. The 28-yard play to Gesicki was nice. But here’s Fitzpatrick’s first-half line other than that Gesicki play: 4-of-10 for 5 yards. In a full half of football. Yikes. Fitzpatrick stayed in to start the second half, perhaps because Flores wanted some kind of positive note from the game, even if it took away from some playing time for Rosen that he could use.

Fitzpatrick did rally, completing a few nice passes on the first drive after halftime including another good one to Gesicki. Fitzpatrick finished the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to running back Mark Walton. A solid drive against the Jaguars backups won’t save the day, but at least it was something after a treacherous first half.

It’s not like the running game did much in the first half either. Kalen Ballage was the only Dolphins running back to get carries in the first half, with Kenyan Drake injured. It was a prime opportunity to take hold of a starting spot. Ballage had 17 yards on 12 carries in the first half. And 11 yards came on one run, so he had 6 yards on his other 11 carries.

Even for a preseason game that doesn’t count, that first half was about as ugly as it can get.

Dolphins in for a long year

Flores is going to have a long rookie season. Even if the Dolphins are better than they looked on Thursday night, it’s hard to imagine they’ll be very good.

Miami seems to realize it won’t be competing for a division title. Presumably, the Dolphins front office will give Flores a lot of patience after putting him in a bad spot. There isn’t a lot of talent on the roster. One potentially intriguing storyline was going to be Rosen, the top-10 pick of the Cardinals last year who Miami traded for, but he hasn’t been able to unseat journeyman Fitzpatrick for the starting job. That’s a bad sign. Rosen did make some nice plays against the Jaguars, most notably a 39-yard pass to Isaiah Ford after escaping the rush and moving right. Rosen, who isn’t known for his mobility, had a couple nice running plays too. Rosen finished 5-of-7 for 59 yards.

Maybe Thursday night’s first half wasn’t a sign of things to come for the Dolphins. But it’s hard to find many positives.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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