Miami Dolphins not set on QB starter as Tua Tagovailoa’s thumb injury lingers

DAVIE, Fla. — Tua Tagovailoa‘s left thumb injury has lingered into its second week, casting uncertainty on whether he will be able to start Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

If Tagovailoa, who is officially listed as questionable, can’t play, veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick would start for the Miami Dolphins once again.

Dolphins coach Brian Flores said Friday that the quarterback situation would be similar to last week in which the coaching staff would review the practice film to determine if Tagovailoa is healthy enough to play and give them the best chance to win. The Dolphins are comfortable with Fitzpatrick, giving them room to lean toward caution if there is still doubt on Tagovailoa.

“Any time you’re dealing with something that is bothering you, there is some impact on accuracy, velocity. Any time there’s an issue on the hand, there’s an impact. Obviously that’s part of the evaluation,” Flores said. “Both quarterbacks have practiced, so we’ll have to make a decision and we will make a decision pretty soon.”

Tagovailoa said earlier this week that he is “feeling good” and wants to play, but he ultimately deferred to Flores and the training staff, believing they have his best interest in mind.

The rookie suffered the left thumb injury, which he describes as getting “dinged,” when he hit a teammate’s helmet on a follow-through when attempting a pass in practice Nov. 25. Tagovailoa has participated in every practice since in a limited capacity, and this week he added a black wrap on his left hand that he is getting used to throwing with.

The Dolphins’ practice viewing period has been limited this week, making it difficult to gauge how accurate Tagovailoa has been completing passes and getting a good grip with his injured thumb, but wide receiver Jakeem Grant said Wednesday that “he looked great. He’s going to continue to get better day by day. He looked exactly the same. He picked up where he left off.”

Flores cautioned that the coaching and training staffs would have a better indication of Tagovailoa’s health than his receivers, though.

“I don’t know what kind of evaluation eye these players have that you’re talking to. I wouldn’t put too much stock in their scouting prowess,” Flores said. “We’ll go through it, and we’ll make the best decision for the team like we always do.”

The 7-4 Dolphins have shown they can win with both Tagovailoa (3-1 as starter) and Fitzpatrick (4-3 as starter) at quarterback, and they will need a good performance Sunday against Cincinnati to stay in the thick of the AFC playoff picture.

Miami’s backfield will likely be without two other contributors, as running backs Salvon Ahmed (shoulder) and DeAndre Washington (hamstring) will be listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game. Running back Matt Breida also missed practice with an undisclosed illness before being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Running back Myles Gaskin, who has been the lead back for much of the season, has missed the past four games with a knee sprain. Flores indicated there would be a conversation with the trainers and front office on whether to activate him to the 53-man roster ahead of Sunday’s game. Gaskin has practiced in at least a limited capacity over the past two weeks.

If Gaskin is activated, he will likely get the largest portion of the backfield touches. If not, the Dolphins will likely have to lean on Patrick Laird. The Dolphins also have a fullback in Chandler Cox and two wide receivers in Lynn Bowden Jr. and Malcolm Perry who have some experience playing running back.

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