‘Barring injury,’ Tua Tagovailoa to remain Miami’s QB, coach says – AL.com

Maybe it’s a matter of semantics. Or a failure to communicate. Or information that’s on a need-to-know basis.

For more than a week, Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ press conferences have featured a common refrain. He said it again on Friday: “Tua’s our quarterback.”

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Flores has been saying this because reports ahead of Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline have indicated the Dolphins are trying to obtain Deshaun Watson, the Houston Texans’ Pro Bowl quarterback, even though Miami used the fifth choice in the 2020 NFL Draft on Tua Tagovailoa to make the Alabama All-American its QB.

“When I say he’s our quarterback, that is me saying we’re committed to him,” Flores said on Friday.

But for reporters at the press conference, that didn’t seem to amount to the same thing as saying the Dolphins aren’t trying to replace him with Watson. As an example, Flores was reminded that when speculation surfaced before last season’s trade deadline that Miami was entertaining offers for All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard, the team issued a statement that read: “We are not exploring any trades regarding Xavien Howard.”

Why should Tagovailoa receive a different level of support?

“I wouldn’t say it’s different,” Flores said. “I would say that I’ve answered that question by saying Tua’s our quarterback. And I’m not getting into speculation. I’m not getting into rumors. I’m not getting into rumors, speculation, distractions. I’m focused on our team, focused on our quarterback, and that’s Tua.”

Flores was asked if he would “declare definitively” that Tagovailoa would be the Miami quarterback at least for the remainder of the 2021 season.

“Definitively that he’s the quarterback barring no — I mean, there’s a lot of things that …” Flores said. Someone from the press interjected “barring injury,” and Flores finished: “Yeah, barring injury. Yeah.”

Whatever happens on the trade front between now and Tuesday, Tagovailoa will play quarterback for the Dolphins against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday – barring injury. When Buffalo beat Miami 35-0 on Sept. 19, Bills defensive end AJ Epenesa fractured Tagovailoa’s ribs on the Dolphins’ second possession, and the quarterback missed the next three games. The injury happened on Miami’s ninth snap of the game. In the first eight, Tagovailoa had been sacked twice.

Flores said protecting Tagovailoa better this time around is “going to be a big part of the game plan in order for us to push the ball down the field in the pass game. Obviously, we talked about that extensively — the different looks they have, the players they have. We’ll continue to practice for that and prepare for that as we get closer to the game. It’s a big part of it, no doubt about that. It’s a point of emphasis. We’re going to have to protect if we’re going to move the ball.”

Since his return from injured reserve, Tagovailoa has completed 65-of-87 passes for 620 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions. The Dolphins lost both games when each opponent – the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 17 and the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 24 – made a field goal on the final snap.

“I think he’s done a lot of good things the last couple of weeks,” Flores said. “I think we moved the ball fairly efficiently the past couple of weeks. I think you can build on that, and we are trying to build on that. He’s trying to build on that. We’re trying to build on that as an offense.”

In his postgame remarks, Tagovailoa has lamented the role the interceptions played in the Dolphins’ defeats.

“He’s always going to be hard on himself,” Flores said. “I think a lot of our players are that way. That’s a good thing. I think that speaks to his competitiveness and his want to get better and be better for our team. I have a lot of respect for that and a lot of respect for him. …

“I think there are a lot of decisions the quarterback has to make to put us in good positions, and he’s made a lot of them. I think he’s made a lot of good decisions the last couple of weeks. He wants to put our team in good position, and he’s fighting, clawing and scrapping to do that. He made a couple of throws that he wished he had back. Every player has plays that they wish they had back. It’s obviously just exacerbated at the quarterback position, and he’ll be better, I would say. He’s learning from these mistakes, bumps in the road. I think he’ll be better from them.”

The Dolphins and Bills are scheduled to square off at noon CDT Sunday at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. After six consecutive losses, Miami has a 1-6 mark and occupies the cellar of the AFC East standings. Buffalo leads that division with a 4-2 record. The Bills are coming off their open date.

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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.

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