It’s Tua Time in Miami, and the immediate question is why now? It was well known that 2020 first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa would eventually become the Miami Dolphins‘ starting quarterback, but coming off back-to-back blowout wins does not seem like an ideal time to switch things up.
Most would have been fine with Tagovailoa sitting for longer, or even all of the NFL season, and learning behind veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had been playing very good football through six weeks. But after taking a step back, this move makes a lot more sense.
The way Dolphins coach Brian Flores has handled a difficult quarterback situation shows his plan will set Tagovailoa up for success, even if it isn’t exactly how I would have mapped it. The timing of the decision comes as a surprise, but Flores’ process has seemingly always had the rookie QB as his top priority. Flores has watched Tagovailoa in practice and if he deems him ready to start now, then the move might be well-timed.
Patience is rare among NFL teams when it comes to playing rookie quarterbacks. Flores resisted the pressure to play Tagovailoa heading into the Dolphins’ season opener at New England. And that same pressure was ratcheted up even higher when Fitzpatrick hit a rough patch and the Dolphins fell to 1-3. Add on, there was early success from rookie quarterbacks, including Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and Los Angeles Chargers‘ Justin Herbert.
But still, Flores resisted to cave to any outside pressure.
The second-year head coach, seemingly one of Fitzpatrick’s biggest fans, preached patience to the Dolphins fan base and promised he would not be rushed into starting Tagovailoa. He treated this decision as if he were the father and the quarterbacks were his sons, so in the safest scenario — up 24-0 late in the fourth quarter against the NFL-worst New York Jets in Week 6 — Flores let Tagovailoa get his feet wet by inserting him into the game. Tagovailoa had five plays, two throws and a moment he’ll remember forever.
Then, when everyone felt Fitzpatrick was most secure in his starting job, Flores made the move to Tagovailoa. This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision, either.
“Expect the unexpected from coach Flo,” one team source told ESPN.
One player told ESPN he was surprised by the move, but noted Tagovailoa keeps improving and he makes one or two “wow” highlight plays in practice every week.
The biggest thing to know about the Dolphins’ move is that it’s more about Tagovailoa’s development than Fitzpatrick’s play.
Fitzpatrick did nothing to lose his job. In fact, Fitzpatrick’s play would give every reason to believe he strengthened his grip on it. He ranks seventh in the NFL in QBR and he’s the most beloved player in the Dolphins’ locker room.
Jeff Saturday expresses surprise at the Dolphins’ decision to start Tua Tagovailoa for their next game, and Stephen A. Smith weighs in on the move.
But everything about the 2020 season was about preparing for life with Tagovailoa as the starter and finding the ideal moment to make that transition. Although it’s a blow for Fitzpatrick to be benched while playing his best football of the season, Flores’ QB plan has never really been about him in the grand scheme of things. It has always been about Tagovailoa.
It will be 351 days since Tagovailoa’s scary, career-threatening hip injury when he makes his first pro start on Nov. 1 against the Los Angeles Rams (1 p.m. ET, Fox). Don’t underestimate the impact that anniversary has on the decision to start him.
Another important factor to consider is the Dolphins are entering their Week 7 bye, which gives Tagovailoa two weeks to prepare. It’s worth wondering if Miami’s plan was always to start Tagovailoa after the bye week, which was initially scheduled for Week 11 before schedule changes happened because of the coronavirus affecting other teams.
The Dolphins’ move is reminiscent of the 2004 New York Giants benching Kurt Warner, who was playing well and had led his team to a 5-4 record in the first half of the season, for rookie Eli Manning.
The Manning-led Giants struggled, going 1-6 the rest of the way and missing the playoffs. Manning threw more interceptions than touchdowns, but the experience was invaluable. Manning led the Giants to the playoffs each of the next four seasons, including two NFC East titles and a Super Bowl championship.
It’s possible and maybe even likely the Dolphins’ offense takes a step back initially with Tagovailoa leading it. Miami has two rookies, right guard Solomon Kindley and right tackle Robert Hunt, protecting Tagovailoa’s blindside. Although the offensive line is much improved through six games, Fitzpatrick did a lot to cover up its faults. Tagovailoa’s timing will have to be on point and fast for him to avoid getting hit often.
Another impact on how this transition has played out? The Dolphins are ecstatic to have Fitzpatrick in the fold to show Tagovailoa the way. Fitzpatrick will support him and teach him, and that’s a rare trait in today’s NFL. That dynamic between the experienced QB and the rookie has had a big impact on how this has all played out.
Flores believes this is the right time for Tagovailoa and it makes more sense. The Dolphins (3-3) are in the thick of the playoff race and it will be invaluable to get their rookie QB the experience he needs. This is a franchise in a rebuild with promises to prioritize the long-term over the short-term outlook.
Tagovailoa is the Dolphins’ most talented quarterback and biggest star since Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino — and this is before he has even started a game.
Tua Time begins in a bit of a surprising way, but early indications are the rookie quarterback is set up for success.
Josh Gordon provides comfy safety blanket to Seahawks’ WR corps – Seattle Seahawks Blog
RENTON, Wash. — The day before his latest suspension was announced last December, Josh Gordon went full extension to haul in a 58-yard pass from Russell Wilson. His only catch of the game set up a touchdown that helped the Seattle Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers.
Gordon’s contribution to that win and the six catches he made in his other four games with Seattle might be instructive when it comes to expectations now that he’s being conditionally reinstated by the NFL for this season’s final two weeks.
The Seahawks (8-3) merely need Gordon to add to an already-strong wide receiver corps wherever he can. As in, a big play here and there as opposed to the kind of incredible performances DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have taken turns delivering this season.
Because barring a major injury between now and when he is eligible to rejoin the team in earnest, Gordon will in all likelihood be either Seattle’s fourth — maybe third — option behind Metcalf (who leads the NFL in receiving) and Lockett (who ranks 16th). David Moore is already having a nice season in the No. 3 role (five touchdowns) ahead of rookie Freddie Swain and Penny Hart. Metcalf, Lockett and Moore rank second in combined receiving yards (2,141) this season among wide receiver trios, trailing Curtis Samuel, DJ Moore and Robby Anderson of the Panthers (2,353).
“He gives Russ another fun toy to play with,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said.
Over his five games last season, Gordon was the Seahawks’ third receiver in playing time behind Lockett and Metcalf. He never finished any of those games with more than two catches or 58 receiving yards, but several of the plays he made came in important situations. Four of his catches converted third downs, including one apiece in the fourth quarter and overtime of their Monday night win over the San Francisco 49ers. Another catch came on fourth down in a loss to the to the Los Angeles Rams.
The final tally over five games: seven catches for 139 yards.
“When you’ve got a lot of different players and different spots that the ball could go, you can’t always predetermine where the ball is gonna go,” Schottenheimer said. “But he made some big-time catches for us on third down, some big plays for us. … I think that it starts with just the timing and the training and him getting with Russ, and I think this year, we’ll be farther ahead because they’ve actually worked together. So I think you can see him get involved hopefully even faster than he did last year.”
For all of the personal struggles Gordon, 29, has had over his career — his most recent suspension was his sixth since 2013 — he made a strong impression on the Seahawks during his month and a half with the team last season. Schottenheimer noted how Gordon worked with Wilson before practice the same way Metcalf does and Greg Olsen did before the veteran tight end was injured.
That should serve Gordon well as he tries to get reintegrated almost exactly one year after previously playing.
“He was an unbelievable pro,” Schottenheimer said. “Just the way he worked. He’s got some stuff he’s got to do to catch up and get up to speed with the things we’re doing. I don’t think that will be any problem. As confident of a catcher as there is the NFL. His hands and his ability to make plays in traffic separates him.
“I remember the play against Carolina on the big post route where … Russ lays it out there, he goes and gets it and he really only gets a couple of his fingertips on it. But an unbelievable catch going to the ground.”
Gordon isn’t eligible to begin practicing until the Monday of Seattle’s Week 16 game against the Rams. He’s eligible to play in that game, but might need more than one week of practice before the team turns him loose. So it might not be until the regular-season finale or the playoffs when Gordon is back on the field.
“Hopefully he’ll be ready to play and I think also too, just to come in and be an addition to our team,” Wilson said. “We’ve got so many great guys making plays right now. So we’ve just got to stay the course and praying that he’s ready to roll.”
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh won’t say if Lamar Jackson will play vs. Dallas Cowboys
Jackson, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Thanksgiving, will complete his 10-day quarantine this weekend. If Jackson is activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list Sunday, that would allow him to participate in one full practice and a walk-through before facing the Cowboys.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked Thursday if Jackson would play against the Cowboys.
“I think I already answered that,” he said.
Harbaugh began his media session by saying the return of the players on the reserve/COVID-19 list is a medical decision and not a coaching one. Jackson is one of 17 players currently on Baltimore’s reserve/COVID-19 list.
By the weekend, the Ravens could get back 10 players off that list: Jackson, running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram, defensive ends Calais Campbell, Justin Madubuike and Jihad Ward, outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, centers Patrick Mekari and Matt Skura and long-snapper Morgan Cox.
“When the doctors clear them for practice, that’s when we’ll have them,” Harbaugh said.
Robert Griffin III, who filled in for Jackson in Wednesday’s 19-14 loss to the Steelers, left in the fourth quarter with an injured hamstring. The only healthy quarterbacks on Baltimore’s roster are Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley, who is on the practice squad.
Punter Sam Koch, the Ravens’ emergency quarterback, won’t get any reps at quarterback this week.
“We won’t need him as a backup,” Harbaugh said.
The Ravens players had a day off and will return Friday for their first full practice since Nov. 20, a span of two weeks. The outbreak in Baltimore limited the team to a couple of walk-throughs. The Ravens had no positive tests Wednesday, which ended a stretch of 10 straight days with at least one player testing positive.
“We need to have some good practices and get our football sea legs under us so we can go out there and perform the way we want to,” Harbaugh said.
The Ravens have lost three straight games to fall to 6-5.
Seattle Seahawks WR Josh Gordon reinstated for last 2 weeks
Gordon will be allowed to begin COVID-19 testing on Friday and might join the Seahawks on Wednesday, Dec. 9, if he tests negative for the virus.
He will be permitted to take part in meetings, individual workouts and strength and conditioning, but he will not be permitted to practice, travel with the team or attend games until Monday, Dec. 21, after Seattle’s Week 15 game.
Gordon, 29, who applied for reinstatement in mid-June, re-signed with the Seahawks on a one-year deal in September.
He was suspended indefinitely in December for violations of the league’s policies on performance-enhancing substances and substances of abuse. It was Gordon’s sixth suspension since the 2013 season and his fifth for some form of substance abuse, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
He caught seven passes for 139 yards in five games last season with the Seahawks, who claimed the one-time Pro Bowler after he was released off injured reserve by the New England Patriots in November.
Gordon missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons as a member of the Cleveland Browns and was suspended in December 2018 for violating terms of his reinstatement, which led to his missing the final three games of the season with the Patriots.
He was suspended for the first two games of the 2013 season but still caught 87 passes for nine touchdowns and a league-leading 1,646 yards and was named to the All-Pro team.
Gordon has played just 63 games since he was chosen by the Browns in the 2012 supplemental draft. Overall, he has caught 247 passes for 4,252 yards — an average of 17.2 yards per catch — and 20 touchdowns.
ESPN’s Brady Henderson contributed to this report.
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