Both Dolphins quarterbacks battling for No. 2 spot underwhelm in preseason opener

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Multiple starting jobs on the Miami Dolphins roster are at stake this preseason.

But given their starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s injury history, it’s the battle to settle who his backup will be that is arguably the most important.

And on Friday night, neither Mike White nor Skylar Thompson did much to show either is ready for that responsibility.

White and Thompson combined for three interceptions, four turnovers overall and neither could lead the Dolphins’ offense into the end zone during their ugly 19-3 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock Stadium.

“There was some good and some bad. It’s learning and that’s going to happen in any preseason game,” White said. “It’s just one of those preseason games where we executed some plays and maybe not so much on others. It’s how we learn from it and how we handle it.”

White, the Pembroke Pines native and alum of NSU University School in Davie, signed with the Dolphins on the first day of free agency. The team’s inclination to sign him so quickly would seem to make him the favorite to land the job.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Mike White (14) sets up to pass in the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons during a preseason game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Friday, August 11, 2023.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Mike White (14) sets up to pass in the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons during a preseason game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Friday, August 11, 2023.

But Thompson has made it a competitive battle in camp thus far.

White got the start and played the entire first half, completing 9 of 14 passes for 85 yards.

After completing his first three passes, White threw a costly red zone interception on the game’s opening drive when he tried to thread the needle in double coverage to tight end Tyler Kroft. Tre Flowers deflected the pass, which ricocheted into the hands of DeMarco Hellams.

“I liked the throw. I put it on the back hip of Tyler and just kind of bounced in the wrong direction,” White said. “I liked the read and where I put the ball. It’s just one of those unfortunate errors that ends up in an interception.”

White led the Dolphins into the red zone on his final two drives of the half. But each series ended with failures to convert on fourth down after Falcons defenders got their hands on White’s throws first on a last-second pass break up and later on a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage.

“It’s hard because you’re not scheming up a red zone,” White said. “You don’t have a red zone package, whereas in the season you do. That’s not an excuse by any means because you still have to execute plays. There’s stuff we have to do better and stuff we could have executed better.”

Thompson played the entire second half with reserves in the game and completed 10 for 16 passes for 104 yards, throwing two interceptions, including a pick-six on Miami’s second-to-last drive of the game. Thompson also lost a fumble when he was sacked with two minutes left.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Skylar Thompson (19) throws an incomplete pass as Thompson is taken down by Atlanta Falcons linebacker Mike Jones Jr. (45) in the fourth quarter during a preseason game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Friday, August 11, 2023.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Skylar Thompson (19) throws an incomplete pass as Thompson is taken down by Atlanta Falcons linebacker Mike Jones Jr. (45) in the fourth quarter during a preseason game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Friday, August 11, 2023.

“It was obviously tough sledding with the turnovers and just getting into a rhythm was tough,” Thompson said. “The preseason is time to learn and time to grow. It’s not always going to be perfect. We just need to watch the tape and learn from it and try to get better from every single experience.”

Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said after the game he would not overreact to either quarterback’s performance, noting that he wanted a chance to evaluate both players in a game where they each get the chance to play with the same or mostly the same personnel — an opportunity he said they’d likely get in next week’s game against the Houston Texans.

White started seven games over the past two seasons, appearing in eight overall for the New York Jets with a 75.4 passer rating. Thompson started two games last year in the regular season and the Dolphins’ loss at Buffalo in the AFC Wild Card round, and appeared in seven games overall during his rookie season. He compiled a 62.2 passer rating in the regular season and a 44.7 rating in his playoff start.

“What’s important to keep in mind is there’s a lot of things that go into this. You don’t just say okay Mike did better than Skylar. It’s much more complicated than that,” McDaniel said. “The quarterbacks both have to be coachable. There’s going to be a point where Tua is going to be taking all the reps and you better be learning from the things that you did in preseason and the things Tua is learning from. The quite critical part of the whole evaluation process is how both guys move forward from here.

“The competition has been awesome in camp and been back and forth. I’m happy with the room overall. A lot of people would be cutting out the league if you overreacted to a one-game situation.”