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Tuesday October 15th, 2019 7:52AM

Dolphins coach: Ryan Fitzpatrick is front-runner in QB race

By The Associated Press
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DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Josh Rosen is looking like a backup, and the perennial problem of bad blocking has prompted a coaching staff change less than a week into training camp.

Otherwise, the Miami Dolphins' offense is taking shape nicely.

Rosen joined the Dolphins in April as their latest hope to become a franchise quarterback. But on Tuesday, coach Brian Flores said journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick has emerged as the front-runner for the starting job.

"Ryan Fitzpatrick is leading the way," Flores said. "He has been more productive. He runs the offense very efficiently. He has great rapport with the entire team; he has a lot of leadership ability.

"It's still a competition. But as we stand today, Ryan has done a really good job."

Fitzpatrick has practiced well while working behind a patchwork line with four positions open. The situation up front became more unsettled Monday when Flores fired offensive line coach Pat Flaherty and replaced him with Dave DeGuglielmo, who had been an analyst for the coaching staff.

"Guge is a very good coach," Flores said. "I saw him as a better fit within the coaching staff and with the team. I went with my gut."

It will be DeGuglielmo's third stint as Miami's offensive line coach. He held the job in 2009-11 and for part of 2017, and last year was offensive line coach for the Indianapolis Colts.

The Dolphins have ranked 24th or worse in yardage each of the past four seasons, with blocking the primary problem. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil ranks among the NFL's best left tackles, but the other four starting jobs are open.

Jesse Davis, a likely starter at right guard or tackle, said that when he and his teammates in the line heard of the coaching switch, they were ready to push ahead.

Wags would say that's a change right there.

"It was probably the same reaction anybody else had," Davis said. "It was like, 'Oh wow, that's interesting.' We're moving forward with Guge. There are no hard feelings anywhere. We've got a job to do. Let's get it done."

Several depth chart spots in the line were shuffled before Tuesday's practice.

"That unit is so vital to the success of this team, and we need to get that right," Flores said.

The first-year coach is now without the two top assistants he hired after taking the job in February. Earlier this month, assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell took a leave of absence to address health issues.

While the outlook with the line remains muddled, the quarterback situation has gained clarity, increasing the likelihood the Dolphins will still be in the market for a long-term solution next offseason. They began camp without Ryan Tannehill for the first time since 2011, and Fitzpatrick is a stopgap option entering his 15th NFL season.

Fitzpatrick embraced the confirmation that he's No. 1 for now, but said he's not about to coast.

"I have been through a lot in my career to know that it all depends on what you do every single day," Fitzpatrick said. "Nothing is given in this game. I never take any of these opportunities for granted."

Fitzpatrick worked with the first team throughout offseason drills and in most practices has looked better than Rosen, who endured a rocky rookie season last year after being drafted in the first round by Arizona.

Rosen acknowledged he's behind the much more experienced Fitzpatrick in operating the offense and recognizing defenses.

"If I'm going to beat him out, I'm going to be proud of myself because I'll know I beat out really good stiff competition," Rosen said. "And if I don't, I know I've got a really good guy to learn from. I'm excited about the next couple of weeks and months to come."

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