Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel has visions of quarterback Skylar Thompson competing for a chance at primary backup duties heading into his second NFL season.
Thompson, after valuable — and even playoff — experience gained as a rookie, stops short of saying the No. 2 quarterback role is his expectation in Year 2. But he is striving to be the best version of himself, and maybe that elevates him from being the third-stringer as a seventh-round draft pick that gets thrust into meaningful snaps due to multiple Dolphins quarterback injuries.
“I got goals, and I’ve always been a dream chaser, a goal chaser and whatnot,” Thompson told the South Florida Sun Sentinel at the Dolphins Challenge Cancer charity event just more than a week ago.
“At the end of the day, I’m going to keep being me. I’m going to keep being Skylar, trying to be the best person I can be. Be the best teammate, best leader.”
As a rookie out of Kansas State, Thompson got two regular-season starts and another in the playoff loss at the Buffalo Bills. He also played every offensive snap from the first one in the Dolphins’ Oct. 9 loss at the New York Jets. Thompson, due to a thumb injury, then left early in his first start against the Minnesota Vikings last October. He managed the offense without any costly mistakes but also without a touchdown in Miami’s 11-6 win over the New York Jets in the regular-season finale to clinch a wild-card playoff berth.
On the road in Orchard Park for a postseason appearance, Thompson was 18 of 45 for 220 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions as the Dolphins hung tight with the heavily favored Bills, losing 34-31. In seven regular-season games, which involved him stepping in for either starter Tua Tagovailoa or Teddy Bridgewater, Thompson finished with a 57.1 completion percentage, 534 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
“When you assess Skylar’s play as a rookie,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said at the NFL scouting combine last week, “he did a lot of things to deserve to be in competition and to have an open mind to him being, to winning the backup quarterback role. I don’t foresee that being unchallenged by any stretch.”
As the Dolphins state publicly that they are committed to Tagovailoa as their starter for the 2023 season, they are likely to pursue a veteran backup quarterback. Based on what McDaniel said, that signing will then be part of a competition for the QB2 role with Thompson.
“I do whatever I can to help this team win,” Thompson said. “That was the mindset I had last year. When I do that, that’s when I’m at my best. That’s when I play good ball and I help the team win. Just know my role on the team and do whatever I can to help the team win, and that’s what I’m going to do this year, too.”
And that ample experience for a seventh-round rookie will be combined with a full offseason of continued work with McDaniel, quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell, offensive coordinator Frank Smith and assistant quarterbacks coach Chandler Henley.
“A lot to be excited about, from my perspective from the season,” Thompson said. “I was able to get my feet wet, get some really good experience, and a lot of learning experiences that, I think, are going to benefit me moving forward, make me stronger.”
McDaniel continued, when speaking at the combine: “I was happy with what Skylar was able to do under the pretense that he’s going to continue to get better.
“And I think Tua is in a different spot. I think the team is in a different spot. And I think there’s some competitive advantages that we can bring to the room through free agency and that’s what we’ll look to do, is at least have some — there will be competition regardless in the room, regardless of who we sign — but I think that’s something that we’re definitely interested in to make the quarterback room better.”
The veteran backup options continue to grow. After news of free-agent starter Derek Carr signing with the New Orleans Saints on Monday, the team is now likely to release Jameis Winston.
In the past week, Carson Wentz and Marcus Mariota became free agents after their releases from the Washington Commanders and Atlanta Falcons, respectively. South Florida product and Jets quarterback Mike White is a free agent who could be interested in a homecoming. Others include Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold — or bringing back Bridgewater.
Thompson turns 26 in June and is set to make $870,000 in 2023. He is under contract through 2025.