Dolphins’ Tua (thumb) working to return vs. Bengals
The expected battle between top-five pick rookie quarterbacks won’t happen on Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals visit the Miami Dolphins.
Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow — the first overall pick in this year’s NFL draft — injured his left knee on Nov. 22 against Washington and is out for the season.
Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa — the fifth pick in April — has an injured thumb on his throwing hand and was limited in practice this week. He missed last week’s win over the New York Jets and is questionable against the Bengals (2-8-1).
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who opened this season as the starter before giving way to Tagovailoa, led Miami to a 20-3 victory over the winless Jets. Fitzpatrick is 4-3 as Miami’s starter this season. Tagovailoa is 3-1.
But Dolphins coach Brian Flores said there is no quarterback controversy in Miami.
“If (Tagovailoa) is healthy,” Flores said, “he’s the guy.”
Miami improved to 7-4 and is a game behind the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East.
Miami’s defense is second in the NFL in points allowed (18.6). In fact, the defense has virtually carried the offense.
The Dolphins played the Jets without their top two running backs — Myles Gaskin (knee) and Salvon Ahmed (shoulder). The next two running backs on the depth chart — Matt Breida and Patrick Laird — both lost fumbles against the Jets. Two more Dolphins running backs were out for at least some of this week’s practices as DeAndre Washington (hamstring) and Malcolm Perry (foot) battled injuries.
In the Miami passing game, DeVante Parker has been targeted 79 times, turning that into 52 catches for 642 yards. All three of those figures lead the team, and his four touchdowns tie him with Preston Williams for the team lead.
Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki is Miami’s second-leading target (51 times). He has 30 catches for 449 yards and three touchdowns.
Flores said Tagovailoa is getting more comfortable with his pass-catchers. Fitzpatrick appears to be ahead of him in the “chemistry with receivers” category.
“I think (Tagovailoa) is getting better at it,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said. “He doesn’t have that type of experience yet with these receivers.”
For Cincinnati, this will be the Bengals’ second straight game without Burrow.
Brandon Allen, who had been on the practice squad, vaulted over Bengals backup Ryan Finley and got the start in last week’s 19-17 loss against the New York Giants.
Allen, selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the sixth round (2016) out of Arkansas, was 17-of-29 passing for 136 yards and a touchdown. He was also sacked twice and intercepted once.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor said Allen will get the nod against the Dolphins in what will be his fifth career start in the NFL.
“He gave us a chance,” Taylor said of Allen. “He’s a good decision-maker. Not everything was perfect. We knew there were going to be challenges. We needed guys around him to lift him up, and we didn’t get enough of that, to be honest.”
Like Miami, the Bengals have issues at running back, as leading rusher Joe Mixon is out with an injured right foot.
Veteran running back Gio Bernard — a South Florida native — is next on the depth chart, but he has been held to a total of 80 yards the past three games.
The Bengals’ top two wide receivers are veteran Tyler Boyd (93 targets, 72 catches, 725 yards and 3 touchdowns) and rookie Tee Higgins (76 targets, 48 catches, 673 yards, 5 TDs).
–Field Level Media