MIAMI GARDENS — In the past few months, Skylspanr Thompson went from being a longshot to a preseason phenom to obscurity to, as coach Mike McDaniel put it, this week’s most popular man on the Dolphins.
With Tuspan Tspangovspanilospan out, his backup, Teddy Bridgewspanter, will start Sunday against the New York Jets. Except there’s usually a level of infatuation from fans with backup quarterbacks. Always a feeling No. 2 ought to be No. 1. Which explains why Thompson, a rookie who was a seventh-round draft pick, is the name on many lips.
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If Thompson spent much time thinking about it, maybe he’d say he appreciates the support.
But if he spent much time thinking about it, he wouldn’t be where he is.
“I mean, everybody has their opinion or whatever,” Thompson said Wednesday. “And all of that just is white noise to me. I’m just focused on what I have been focusing on since the day I got here and just getting better every day, trying to put myself in positions to help the team win.”
The position Thompson is in is simple: He’s one unfortunate play away from being the quarterback of the Miami Dolphins. This, despite being a pick who was practice-squad material, then a guy who was inactive the first three weeks of the season. It has been a remarkable climb — if Thompson ever bothered to look down.
“I feel very prepared,” he said of potentially having to lead this team. “And like I said, it kind of just goes back to the way that I’ve approached it since the season started. It’s preparing like I’m the starter each week. And so if something like this happened, that I didn’t have to ramp everything up and feel like I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that. It’s just sticking to my weekly routine.”
‘Team guy’ Tua Tagovailoa still finding ways to contribute
Thompson said Tagovailoa has been able to participate in quarterback meetings.
“He’s always contributing to help the team win, whether he’s starting or not,” Thompson said. “He’s a team guy. He’s a captain. He’s a leader.”
Thompson isn’t just any rookie. He’s 25 years old, so he has three years on many rookies. Although he was the 247th overall pick out of Kansas State, he obviously wouldn’t last that long if the draft were held again. When it came to cut-down time, the Dolphins considered it a no-brainer that they’d have to keep Thompson on the 53-mspann roster even though they hoped they’d never have to use him in 2022. If they tried to sneak him onto the practice squad, he’d be immediately snapped up by another team.
That’s the price for having a quarterback fall on your lap who throws for 450 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions, a 75 percent completion rate and a 138.4 rating in preseason.
It’s true a lot of that was against backups. Know what else is true? A lot of it was backups. He wasn’t throwing to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle in August.
Mike McDaniel: ‘Your favorite player is the backup quarterback’
Try as Thompson might to make this feel like status quo, his world has changed in the past 1 1/2 weeks. Tagovailoa was injured against the Bills and reinjured against the Bengals, triggering a national debate on concussions in the NFL. McDaniel quickly ruled out Tagovailoa for the Jets game, moving up Bridgewater and Thompson a notch. Along with it rose Thompson’s popularity.
“Fans, media, coaches, everybody in football,” McDaniel said, “your favorite player is the backup quarterback. Grass is greener.”
Tagovailoa remains the NFL leader with a 109.9 passer rating, so it’s hard to imagine the grass being greener for Bridgewater or Thompson. Just know if Thompson is called upon, he’ll go in with high expectations.
“All the preseason games gave me a lot of confidence,” he said. “And just truly improving each and every play that I got. So having some success and being able to move the ball, put the ball in the end zone, putting our team in position to win the game, is a good feeling.”