Tagovailoa shoots for rare 4-0 start as Dolphins visit Broncos
The Denver Broncos have been searching for a franchise quarterback since Peyton Manning retired five years ago, and they think they’ve finally found one in Drew Lock.
The Miami Dolphins might be more certain that they’ve found their future quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa has stepped in and led the Dolphins into contention in the AFC East, and when Miami faces the Broncos in Denver on Sunday, he has a chance to become the second rookie quarterback in the last 40 years to win his first four starts. He would join Ben Roethlisberger, who did it for Pittsburgh in 2004, when he led the Steelers to a 15-1 record.
The Dolphins (6-3) won’t match that lofty record but they have won five straight, the last three with Tagovailoa under center.
Miami has endured through adversity, including not having three assistant coaches — Austin Clark (outside linebackers), Marion Hobby (defensive line) and Robby Brown (quarterbacks) — for the last two wins because of COVID-19 concerns.
Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has been on the reserve/COVID-19 list, linebacker Keith Van Noy missed some snaps against the Los Angeles Chargers with a hip issue and running back Matt Breida missed the last two games with a hamstring injury but could be available against Denver. Van Noy didn’t practice with the team Wednesday.
One indication that Breida, who was a full practice participant Wednesday, is ready was Monday’s move to waive running back Jordan Howard in what was classified as a mutual parting.
“We have a mentally tough team,” Dolphins head coach Brian Flores told ESPN. “It’s a week-to-week league, how we prepare, how we practice, how we walk through is a direct correlation to how we play. They understand that. This is a hungry group, they fight for each other, it’s important to them; they’re competitive. So they work at it, and we’re seeing the fruits of that labor out on the field.”
Miami’s five-game winning streak began with a 43-17 rout at San Francisco followed by home wins over the New York Jets and Los Angeles Rams and a road victory at Arizona. After the win over the Jets and during the bye week, Flores replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick with Tagovailoa, and the rookie has responded with five TD passes and no interceptions in four games.
While the Dolphins are trending up, the Broncos have been falling after losing three of their last four, and now Lock’s availability for Sunday is in question. Lock, who missed two-plus games earlier this season with a shoulder injury, is nursing sore ribs suffered in last week’s loss at the Las Vegas Raiders.
Lock threw a career-high four interceptions against the Raiders.
Denver (3-6) could also be without tight end Noah Fant, who is nursing an ankle injury. Neither Lock nor Fant practiced with the team Wednesday, putting into question their availability against Miami. Backup quarterback Brett Rypien, who started in a win over the Jets on Oct. 1, took snaps with the first-team offense.
“He’s made good progress since Monday morning until Wednesday morning,” head coach Vic Fangio said about Lock before Wednesday’s practice. “We’ll see how much progress he continues to make throughout the week, and see how it goes.”
The offense is averaging just 20.7 points a game this season while the defense has been porous. The Broncos are allowing 28.2 points a game this season and have given up 144 over the last four games.
–Field Level Media