By Abe Gutierrez
With three games remaining in the 2016 NFL regular season, the (8-5) Miami Dolphins are in a privileged position to control their own destiny in an attempt to clinch one of the two Wild Card spots available in the ultra-competitive AFC.
However, Miami also finds itself in a position where it would have to accomplish this feat with first-string quarterback Ryan Tannehill sidelined for an undisclosed amount of time due to a knee injury. Thus, Miami will put their trust in second-stringer Matt Moore, as he's set to make his first start in five years.
Life without Ryan Tannehill
On Wednesday, first-year Dolphins head coach Adam Gase met with media members to address some of the concerns and challenges his team will face going forward. The first order of business is convincing Dolphins fans that this team will be successful with a a backup signal-caller who hasn't started a regular season game since the 2011 NFL campaign.
"It's rare to have that much time in between starts because something usually happens," Gase said regarding the huge gap between Moore's last two starts. "This organization has been fortunate as far as having the same guy behind center game-after-game and this is an unusual situation for us, we're in uncharted waters."
Moore signed with the Dolphins after four uneventful seasons with the Carolina Panthers, the team that drafted him. If history is an indicator, there's a good chance he will be successful in his new role with the Miami, as this will not be uncharted territory for him.
Moore started in 12 of the 13 games he played in during the 2011 NFL season, as he replaced an injured Chad Henne. The Oregon State product completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,497 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and thus, was named the Dolphins' 2011-2012 season MVP.
"Matt works so hard day-in and day-out to prepare himself just in case," Gase explained. "I think it would've been easy for him not to be ready because nothing's ever happened, but it was obvious that he went in that game he knew what to do, he knew where to go with the ball, made plays especially in critical situations and adverse conditions."
Play-calling dynamic between Gase and Moore
Another challenge Gase and their new starting quarterback must face is their comfort level when it comes to play calling during live games. According to Gase, he expects the information he's gathered with Moore spending so much time with him on the sidelines will pay dividends.
"I feel like I do have a pretty good feel for a lot of the things that he really does like," he added. "There's a few things I feel like I know that he does not like, which is good, we want to do what he feels comfortable doing."
Gase on signing T.J. Yates over promoting Brandon Doughty
Another key question from the media was regarding the thought process that went into signing veteran quarterback T.J. Yates to take on the role of Moore's backup. After all, Miami could have simply promoted rookie quarterback Brandon Doughty from the practice squad and let him get some reps at the pro-level.
However, not willing to roll the dice with the Dolphins' playoff hopes on the line, Gase was adamant about the fact that he preferred a veteran player who's been in these types of situations as his team's security blanket. In his NFL career, Yates has completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,534 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions in 18 games played (seven starts).
"I just felt like that was the right decision for us to make," Gase said when asked about signing T.J. Yates as Moore's backup rather than promoting seventh-round pick, Brandon Doughty. "I wanted a guy that had kind of been in some situations where he's has to play in a regular season game. I don't want to put Brandon in a bad situation where all of the sudden now he's thrust into this situation."
Gase on timetable for Ryan Tannehill's return
Finally, the questions on everyone's mind: When can Fins fans can expect Tannehill to return to the field? And will the team consider putting him on season-ending injured reserve? According to Miami's head coach, the possibility of placing Tannehill on IR isn't fully out of the question, but, a good opportunity would have to arise in order for that to happen.
"We're in no rush, we've got plenty of time," Gase said when asked about the possibility of putting Tannehill on IR in order to open up another spot on the roster. "If we felt like there's a situation where IR is an option then we'll get there, but right now, we're still gathering information and figuring out timetables and seeing what happens.
"We gotta play a play a game Saturday, then we'll go back and talk about everything again and see where we're at. So, right now, we're taking things slow. I'm not going to rush him back. I know that. I'm not going to put his health at risk t try and hurry up and get him back for any game."
Dolphins remain favorites over Jets in Week 15 despite QB situation
The moment of truth will come when the Miami Dolphins take on the hated New York Jets Saturday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Opening betting lines for this contest had the Fins favored by a field goal and the Jets as three-point underdogs. However since then, lines have moved in favor of the home team by half-a-point, as Miami is now listed as -2½ the Jets at +2½ and the OVER/UNDER tallies 37½ points. Opening kickoff is scheduled for 8:25 p.m. ET.
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