When the Miami Dolphins offense takes the field for its Wild Card playoff matchup against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, it will be led by an unfamiliar name. Rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson will start the game for the AFC’s seventh seed.
Skylar who? Exactly. Not really a household name, Thompson is Miami’s third-string quarterback who has been pressed into action because of injuries higher up on the depth chart.
Who is he, though? Let’s find out.
Who is Skylar Thompson?
A three-star recruit out of Fort Osage High School in Independence, Mo., Thompson received several scholarships and walk-on opportunities heading into college. He eventually decided to head west, joining Kansas State.
After redshirting his freshman campaign in 2016, Thompson quickly proved himself a starter-level player for the Wildcats. He ended his 2017 season with starts in his final four games, before starting 10 contests the following season. By his 2019 campaign he was the team’s undisputed leader and looked the part: A team captain, Thompson showed his talents as a dual-threat QB and was named honorable All-Big 12 mention.
He was not entirely able to build on this momentum, though, mainly because of injuries. Not only did he miss the final seven games of 2020 due to an upper body injury, he also had to sit out three games as a graduate student in 2021 because of knee and ankle ailments.
He still left Kansas State as one of the most prolific players in school history. Nonetheless, he received little pre-draft hype in 2022.
As a result, Thompson had to wait until the 247th selection in the seventh round to hear his name called. The Miami Dolphins picked him up as a developmental passer behind starter Tua Tagovailoa and veteran backup Teddy Bridgewater.
Despite his lack of draft pedigree, Thompson was given considerable opportunities throughout his first NFL training camp and preseason. He made the most out of it, and found his way onto Miami’s 53-man roster
“He played very well,” Dolphins general manager Chris Greer said at the time. “[A] guy that comes in, he just works every day, won over his teammates through his work ethic, and he went out and balled. Another one where we got calls again, people asking what we were going to do and they’re all saying, ‘You know, you guys would be stupid to let him go.’ And there was no thought about us doing that.”
While originally projected not to see any playing time as a rookie, Thompson was thrust into action in Week 5 against the New York Jets. With Tagovailoa inactive and Bridgewater suffering a concussion early on, the third-stringer got his opportunity.
He did not exactly shine — Thompson went 19-for-33 for 166 yards with one interception — but he still got his first career start the following week. The youngster completed just 7 of 13 pass attempts for 89 yards in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings, suffering a thumb injury along the way.
Thompson returned to the bench the following week, seeing only marginal action over the next few games until a Week 17 game in New England.
While unable to complete the comeback against the Patriots after he entered the contest in the second half, he was now once more tasked with leading one of the most explosive offenses in football. Thompson did his job the following week, by going 20-for-31 for 152 yards in a win over the Jets — a win that secured Miami the seventh playoff seed in the AFC and a matchup with the Bills.
Why is he starting on Sunday?
As mentioned above, Thompson is now in the starting lineup because of injuries higher up on the depth chart. He originally entered the NFL as a third-stringer, and the expectation was that he would sit and learn behind Tagovailoa and Bridgewater.
However, Tagovailoa’s concussion issues have tested the Dolphins’ depth. The former first-round draft pick suffered a head injury in Week 16 against Green Bay, and was moved into concussion protocol before Miami’s game in New England.
That game, Bridgewater got the start, but he suffered a dislocated finger while trying to make a tackle on an interception return. He missed the regular season finale against the Jets, and while he’s active against Buffalo, will serve as a backup.
As a consequence, Miami’s offense is once again in the hands of Skylar Thompson:
His NFL journey up until this point might have been a rollercoaster, but he will still get an opportunity to show his talents on a prominent stage. If he is up to the task, Miami might have a chance against the Bills even as a 14-point underdog.