One year ago, quarterback Skylar Thompson was leading the Kansas State Wildcats to a win over LSU in the Texas Bowl. This week, he finds himself as starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins when they take on the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, NY on Super Wild Card Weekend.
Dolphins’ HC Mike McDaniel made it official today, telling reporters that QB Skylar Thompson will start Sunday vs. Buffalo.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 13, 2023
Drafted in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the 25-year-old rookie was obviously not some prestigious prospect ready to play in the NFL. Seventh-round quarterbacks are selected to be practice squad players. NFL.com writer Lance Zierlein painted a picture outlining his strengths and weaknesses that wasn’t pretty, prior to the Dolphins selecting Thompson.
Shows ability to work through progressions
Reads coverage on combo routes with timing
Resets feet on the move to deliver from his platform
Arm talent to make rollout and scramble throws with success
Delivers deep ball with adequate touch
Maneuvers around the pocket and locates his target
Won’t take many unnecessary chances with the football
Will be a 25-year-old rookie
Very average passing production over his 40 starts
Below-average accuracy on drive throws
Over-strides and sails the throw
Forces receivers to break stride and work for it
Throws need to come out with better anticipation
Fails to fully explore passing options when he hits the red zone
Missed chunks of time due to upper body, knee and ankle injuries since 2020
Obviously, evaluating rookie quarterbacks is hard — just take a look at the New York Jets’ track record for drafting quarterbacks. But Thompson has some NFL film now. His stats are far from glorious — fitting for someone who probably didn’t think he’d play at all this season. He has appeared in seven games throughout the 2022 NFL season, passing for 534 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
For this week’s edition of Mr. B’s Breakdown, I want to showcase these interceptions and the lone touchdown. What caused these plays to happen and has that scouting report held up to the film being produced in his rookie season? Let’s find out.
Thompson’s INT against New England Patriots
Thompson came in the game after an injury to second-string quarterback Teddy Bridgwater. The Patriots had a two-point lead as Thompson attempted this throw to wide receiver Tyreek Hill on an out route to the sideline. Presented here with two angles, watch how Thompson under-throws Hill, forcing him to turn his body in an attempt at making a play on the ball, which pops up off his wrist into cornerback Jonathan Jones’ hands.
This slowed-down clip really highlights how under-thrown the ball was to the speedy Hill.
Plays like this ten-yard out on 3 & 14 in Patriots territory are critical to offensive success. Completing this pass gives the offense a manageable 4th & Short, or allows an attempt at a field goal that would have given the Dolphins the lead.
Thompson’s INT against San Francisco 49ers
During this game, Thompson replaced Tua Tagovailoa while Miami was down 16 with just under two minutes to play in regulation. At this point, all coaches want to see is Thompson be able to move the offense into scoring position in a two-minute drill. Instead, his first throw of the game is an interception.
While it was a poorly thrown ball, I would put most of the blame on the coaching staff for the route concepts on the play design. The FOX commentators on the broadcast highlighted in yellow how much open field there was underneath the coverage because of how far back the 49ers dropped. The play had no passing option running in this underneath area — only to the left flat or at least 20 yards down field. Thompson should have checked this ball down, but never looked at his last option to his left in the flat.
Thompson’s INT against New York Jets
In this Week 5 matchup, the Dolphins were trailing 12-7 with eight minutes to go in the first half. Thompson was targeting wide receiver River Cracraft downfield when he was hit while releasing the throw. The ball was slow and wobbly, allowing cornerback Sauce Gardner to make the play for his first ever NFL interception.
Thompson’s TD against Patriots
Down nine with one minute to go in the fourth quarter, Thompson made a nice play to connect with tight end Mike Gesicki for a four-yard score. He demonstrated good pocket movement during the play in buying time, scrambling, and allowing Gesicki to get open in the end zone. His throw was impressive. He was on-target with some speed behind it to fit the ball into a small window.
Mr. B’s Final Thoughts
I’m bummed we won’t see Tua Tagovailoa versus Josh Allen in the playoffs for round three. The two seemed to push each other in their games this year, forcing the best out of one another.
With that said, the Bills have a huge advantage with Thompson at quarterback. As you can see, his interceptions have shown some of the weaknesses that we knew he had coming into this season. To Thompson’s disadvantage, he has thrown these interceptions while being down in games. In trying to get his team back in the game, he may be taking risks he wouldn’t normally attempt. In Week 18, Thompson was able to manage the game by not throwing an interception, only taking one sack, and not losing the game for the defense, which played outstanding against a weak Jets offense. Head coach Mike McDaniel was impressed after the performance as well, saying, “I’m not sure if anyone really understands the gravity of what he was able to accomplish. He’s banking on reps that he’s doing individually after practice every single day, some scout-team reps, and then everything he did in the preseason. To jump into a fully operating machine and then to do it — I’m very aware of the score, but we’re talking about no turnovers, one sack. ... It was no easy test. Those who are weak would be exposed immediately.”
I predict he’ll have a stat line along the lines of 19-of-38 for 180 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a 31-10 loss to the Bills. His weapons are banged up, his line is hurt, but it’s the NFL playoffs, and anything can happen. How do you think Thompson will fare this week against the Bills?