Rookie Tua Tagovailoa, benched in the second half last week, will be back at quarterback on Sunday when the Miami Dolphins travel to face the winless New York Jets.
The Dolphins (6-4) had their five-game winning streak snapped last Sunday in a 20-13 loss to the Denver Broncos. Tagovailoa completed 11 of 20 passes for 83 yards before he was lifted in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick, the veteran who held the job at the start of the season.
"Tua wasn't injured," Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said, settling any doubts. "We just felt (Fitzpatrick) gave us the best chance to win the game."
Flores said Tagovailoa will return to the starting lineup with the expectation of getting Miami back on track.
"He's a confident kid," Flores said.
That confidence surely was tested when Tagovailoa was sacked six times by the Broncos, who blitzed him repeatedly.
The Jets are a dismal 0-10 on the season and 0-6 when Sam Darnold is the starting quarterback. The third-year pro has not played since a Nov. 1 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs because of a shoulder injury.
Darnold took all the first-team repetitions Wednesday and is on track to start on Sunday.
"I finally have a bit more confidence in my shoulder to withstand a hit," Darnold said.
If Darnold can't go, veteran quarterback Joe Flacco will make his third straight start. He is 0-4 as the starter.
Defensively, the Jets and veteran defensive coordinator Gregg Williams would love to draw up some successful blitzes against Tagovailoa. But Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker still needs plenty of attention with a team-leading 44 receptions and four touchdowns.
The Dolphins have starting offensive lineman Jesse Davis on the reserve/COVID-19 list, while defensive tackle Christian Wilkins was removed from the list Wednesday.
The Jets will be without rookie running back La'Mical Perine (high-ankle sprain) and kicker Sam Ficken (groin) after they were placed in injured reserve.
Perine has rushed for 202 yards and a 3.7 average. Veteran Frank Gore, 37, who leads the team with 447 rushing yards (3.6 per carry), figures to get even more work.
Gore, a native of Miami who is No. 3 on the NFL's list for career rushing yards with 15,794, played for the Dolphins in 2018.
"You don't want to go 0-16, especially if this is my last year," Gore said. "I can't wait to get a win. I'd be so happy."
The backups to an aging Gore are expected to be Ty Johnson and Josh Adams, who have combined for just 65 yards this season.
Replacing Ficken will be Sergio Castillo, who was solid (6-for-7 on field goals) when he got a shot with the Jets earlier this year.
Jets right tackle George Fant is expected to miss the game due to ankle and knee sprains. His backup, Chuma Edoga, has been limited in practice with a low-ankle sprain.
The Jets had at least two bright spots in last week's 34-28 loss to the Chargers. Rookie wide receiver Denzel Mims, a second-round pick, caught three passes for a season-high 71 yards; and defensive end Harry Anderson had five tackles, one stop for a loss and a blocked punt. Yet the day ended in another defeat.
"This is," Anderson said, "the most frustrating year I've ever had playing football."
--Field Level Media