The NFL player who has allowed the lowest passer rating against of any cornerback in the league has been on the field only 75 percent of the time this season.
Dolphins rookie safety/cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick said he’s fine with that, and that the Dolphins this week have shown no inclination to change his role. In other words, Miami has used him in practice exactly the way he has been used all season — in the slot cornerback position.
But Fitzpatrick also made clear that in a few years, “I would like to be somewhere on the field more.” And he also said “anybody would say” they want to play more immediately.
That very likely will happen by 2019. But the question is whether the Dolphins’ struggling defense should carve out a larger role for a player who is limiting opposing quarterbacks to a meager 50.8 passer rating when targeted.
One way would be moving Fitzpatrick full time to a safety position, and defensive coordinator Matt Burke revealed Thursday the team has considered giving Fitzpatrick some of T.J. McDonald’s safety snaps.
McDonald, who plays every down, is rated 64th among 87 safeties by Pro Football Focus and has a 105.6 passer rating in his coverage area, with 17 completions in 24 targets for 296 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Another less likely option would be moving Fitzpatrick to boundary cornerback in place of Bobby McCain, a natural slot corner who has struggled on the boundary in his first two games back from a knee injury. Quarterbacks have a 93.6 passer rating in McCain’s coverage area.
Fitzpatrick said he played boundary cornerback some at Alabama and said “I think I could be” successful doing that. Burke agrees with that.
“I think he has the skill set [to do it],” Burke said. “It’s been a while since he’s done that and played on the outside. Part of it is mental in terms of what we put on his plate. He has performed well in coverage situations.”
Fitzpatrick played 10 percent of his snaps at outside cornerback at Alabama in 2016 but just two percent last year and it didn’t go well. On all of those snaps, he allowed 7of 13 passes to be completed for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
According to Pro Football Focus’ Ryan Smith, the last time Fitzpatrick allowed a touchdown was September 2, 2017 against FSU, on a three-yard fade route. Fitzpatrick has played almost 600 coverage snaps since then between Alabama and Miami.
Fitzpatrick, informed that he’s best in the league in passer rating against, said: “I did pretty well. Chicago was my worst game. There’s always room for improvement.”
He said Cincinnati’s A.J. Green had the longest passing play against him this year, a 22-yard catch.
Asked to assess his rookie season at the midpoint, Fizpatrick said: “Started off strong. Teams are doing things not to keep me on the field. I’m happy where I’m at.”
Receiver Kenny Stills (groin) and defensive end Charles Harris (calf) missed practice and it would be surprising if either plays Sunday against the visiting Jets (1 p.m., CBS).
“I don’t want to come back too early,” Stills said, while not ruling out playing Sunday. “We’re taking it slow.”
▪ The Dolphins have tried shuffling DeVante Parker between receiver positions so “now when we hit Sunday, moving him around like we keep trying to do and expand his route tree and flexibility,” Gase said. “You want to keep him where guys can’t get a beat on him.”
Parker embraces the Dolphins “putting me in different spots by moving me around, doing different things” and said it doesn’t create any extra work for him.
▪ Gase said he will stick with Ted Larsen at left guard, in place of Josh Sitton (who’s out for the season), instead of allowing Wesley Johnson and Jake Brendel to compete for the job. “We’re good where we are at right now,” Gase said.
The Dolphins have until next Thursday to take Brendel off injured reserve in the wake of a late-July calf injury.
Asked if he will be activated, Gase said: “We will take the whole time and when we feel whether it’s the right time and he’s feeling right, we got a chance to move him up, we’re going to move him up. Anytime you can get a lineman that’s fresh, that’s beneficial to us.”
▪ Fox’s Troy Aikman cautioned that rookie tight end Mike Gesicki can’t continue to try to hurdle defenders and expose his body to injury.
Gase’s view: “The one he hurt his shoulder on [two weeks ago], he went really low. He’s a tall guy, long strider. It is kind of strange the way he can defend himself. Does he go low? I want him to be careful as far as him trying to get up in the air too much. You saw what happened in Houston, all of a sudden he gets dropped on his head. Just keep finding ways to get him to really get north, try to get glancing blows and run through contact. He can run by everybody. He’s fast for a guy his size.”
▪ Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley injured his knee in practice and was limited. Gase said “we have a good chance” on Sunday to get tight end A.J. Derby back from a lingering foot injury.
“I don’t think he’s going to be 100 percent,” Gase said. “He’s always going to have some kind of pain.”