Jay Cutler will make his Miami Dolphins debut on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens, coach Adam Gase said Tuesday.
This will be the Dolphins’ second preseason game and Gase didn’t say how many snaps Cutler is expected to take.
The Dolphins signed the former Bears quarterback on Aug. 7 after losing Ryan Tannehill to a torn left ACL.
Gase said of his new quarterback Tuesday that “right now, everything looks like Jay is going to go” in Thursday night’s game.
It’s a glimmer of potentially good news in what has been an otherwise difficult training camp. Miami was a surprise wild-card team last year in Gase’s first season, but its quest for a postseason return has already hit several obstacles.
For the fourth time in two weeks, the team lost a projected starter to a season-ending injury after Gase confirmed that cornerback Tony Lippett tore an Achilles. Lippett will undergo surgery that will cost him the entire season.
He joins rookie second-round linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons, and starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who elected to have reconstructive surgery to repair damage to ligaments in his left knee after re-injuring it in practice Aug. 3. Guard Ted Larson tore his biceps and is also expected to miss several months.
And there’s more.
A lingering neck injury forced linebacker Koa Misi into retirement. Workhorse running back Jay Ajayi suffered a concussion in practice earlier this month and missed the preseason opener. He just cleared concussion protocol, but the Dolphins are exercising caution with his return, Gase saying he’s “still thinking about” whether Ajayi will play Thursday. Given how much the offense may rely on him while Cutler settles in, it might be prudent to rest Ajayi anyway.
Miami has a talented, young roster, but are all these injuries too much to overcome? Losing McMillan and Misi weakens an already suspect linebacking corps, while the injury to Lippett will force someone to step into the nickelback role.
But, without question, the Cutler experiment is the most important.
When Gase was Cutler’s offensive coordinator in 2015 with the Bears, Cutler had an atypically efficient season in which he set a career-high in passer rating (92.3) after completing 64.4% of his passes for 3,659 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. The offense Gase runs in Miami is practically identical to the one Cutler learned in Chicago so, in theory, he should be able to produce quickly assuming he jells with his new teammates and is able to get into football shape — potentially a big hurdle given he only gave up his new broadcasting gig to return to the league last week.
“It’s part of football,” Gase said of the injuries. “The worst part of it. But there’s nothing that we really can do to prevent it. You try to do everything right in the weight room. You try to schedule practice right. You try to do everything you can not to fatigue your guys to where their bodies are breaking down.
“But at the end of the day, training camp is meant to be hard. It’s meant to harden you up. It’s meant to get you in condition, so you’re not going to prevent everything.”
Cutler, 34, has impressed the Dolphins by quickly picking up on Gase’s offense. Gase was his former offensive coordinator with the Bears, and Cutler had one of his best seasons working under Gase in 2015, passing for 3,659 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
“Just being behind some of these guys and missing most of training camp, missing OTAs, I think it’s important for me to get some valuable reps out there, feel good and get some positive stuff on tape with some of these guys,” Cutler said Sunday.
Gase is eager for the Dolphins to rally around Cutler.
“Players want the same guy every day,” Gase said. “When you know what you’re going to get day-in and day-out it just helps the rest of those guys around him. They know what they’re getting and they know if we’re in the right spot, we’re going to get the going to get the ball … That consistency day-in and day-out is the key to everything.”