Murray, Tagovailoa tangle as Cards host Dolphins
Former first-round picks Kyler Murray (No. 1 overall in 2019) and Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5 this year) will be on the marquee Sunday when they meet in Glendale, Ariz.
Murray will lead the Arizona Cardinals (5-2), and Tagovailoa will start for the visiting Miami Dolphins (4-3) in a battle between two of the NFL’s most-hyped young quarterbacks.
Both QBs wear jersey No. 1, and they have similar frames: Murray at 5-feet-10, 207 pounds; and Tagovailoa at 6-0, 217.
The last — and only — time they have met on the field was on Dec. 29, 2018. Tagovailoa’s Alabama Crimson Tide defeated Murray’s Oklahoma Sooners, 45-34, in a College Football Playoff semifinal in the Orange Bowl.
Tagovailoa was nearly perfect in that game, completing 24 of 27 passes for 318 yards, four TDs and no interceptions.
Murray was the much better runner, gaining 109 yards and one TD on 17 carries. He also completed 19 of 37 passes for 308 yards, two TDs and no picks.
Tagovailoa and Murray struck up a friendship in 2018 while attending awards shows. Tagovailoa won the Maxwell Award. Murray won the Heisman Trophy.
“We understand the level of respect we have for each other,” said Tagovailoa, 22. “On the field, it’s competition. Off the field, it’s a lot different.”
Things will indeed be different on Sunday. While both the Cardinals and Dolphins are on three-game win streaks, Murray, 23, seven months older than Tagovailoa, is the more established pro star.
Murray, the NFL’s 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year, has 23 career starts.
Tagovailoa has just one, last week’s 28-17 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, during which the Miami defense and special teams did most of the work. Tagovailoa passed for just 93 yards in that game.
The Cardinals, who are five-point favorites in Sunday’s game, are not without their concerns. Outside linebacker Devon Kennard, who had a total of 14 sacks the past two years and has two this season, announced on Monday that he is out due to a COVID-19 positive test.
Cornerback Byron Murphy, who has started five games and has four passes defensed for the Cardinals this season, is out for the same reason.
“It’s how teams handle this the best,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said of the pandemic. “Our guys have a good understanding of how we’ll handle this. We’ll move forward.”
Former Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake, who leads the Cardinals with 512 rushing yards, will miss Sunday’s game due to an ankle injury.
Murray, with 437 yards, is Arizona’s next-best rusher. Murray will likely air it out to his big-name receivers DeAndre Hopkins (57 catches, 704 yards) and Larry Fitzgerald (29 catches, 207 yards).
Chase Edmonds, who will replace Drake at running back, is another player to watch. He had 145 scrimmage yards in Arizona’s most recent game, an impressive 37-34 overtime win against the Seattle Seahawks.
Arizona, coming off a bye week, will face a hot Dolphins team that got an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown by Jakeem Grant.
The Dolphins also got a great defensive effort against the Rams, including a 78-yard touchdown on Andrew Van Ginkel’s fumble return as well as interceptions from safety Eric Rowe and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. In addition, linebacker Kyle Van Noy rumbled 28 yards with a fumble recovery, setting Miami up for a 1-yard TD “drive.”
Miami’s defense may also have the best cornerbacks in the league in Xavien Howard (four interceptions) and Byron Jones.
Offensively, Miami’s biggest playmakers are wide receiver DeVante Parker (30 catches, 367 yards, three TDs) and running back Myles Gaskin (585 scrimmage yards, two TDs).
However, Gaskin (knee injury) and backup running back Matt Breida (hamstring) did not practice on Wednesday, and their status for Sunday is questionable. Gaskin reportedly could miss three games.
–Field Level Media