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Behind Enemy Lines: Dolphins Coach Encouraged by Tua Tagovailoa

Bills Central on FanNation logo Bills Central on FanNation 10/26/2021 Nick Fierro
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Dolphins coach believes Tua Tagovailoa has blocked out disturbing noise.

Tua Tagovailoa, meet A.J. Epenesa. A.J. Epenesa, Tua Tagovailoa.

That introduction early in Week 2 didn't go so well for Tagovailoa, the embattled Miami Dolphins quarterback who was knocked into near oblivion and onto the injured reserve list by the Buffalo Bills' defensive end as Miami absorbed a 35-0 beating.

Tagovailoa is back from the broken ribs sustained in that meeting but is still getting crushed figuratively by persistent trade rumors involving disgruntled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Dolphins covet Watson, they're the favorite to land him before next Tuesday's NFL trade deadline and the world knows it.

It is against that backdrop that the Dolphins (1-6) visit the Bills (4-2) on Sunday for their AFC East rematch.

Nevertheless, Dolphins coach Brian Flores put on his best poker face for a Zoom press conference and declared his confidence in Tagovailoa, who has started just 13 games since Miami took him with the fifth overall pick of the 2020 draft.

"I think he's getting better," Flores said. The coach spoke slowly, with awkward, pregnant pauses between some of his sentences.

"I think he's getting better every time he steps on the field," Flores continued. I think he's pushing the ball down the field more. I think he's making better decisions. I think he's making quicker decisions. I think he's doing a lot of things. ... You know, it's a small sample size, but every time he steps out there, I see progress, and I saw that yesterday [in a 30-28 loss to Atlanta], for sure.

"... I think one of the things, he showed some grit, some growth with some adversity, you know, with a couple interceptions, and then coming back and giving us an opportunity to win the game at the end.

"He's a young player. Everyone develops at a little bit of a different pace. But I think he's doing a lot of good things."

That includes blocking out the noise that the Dolphins are looking to move on from him despite significantly better production than Bills counterpart Josh Allen at the same stage of his career.

Allen in his rookie season started 11 games, went 5-6 with a 52.8 completion percentage and more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (10).

Tagovailoa through his first 13 starts has a completion percentage of 64.1 and twice as many touchdowns (18) as interceptions. He also has a 7-6 record.

No matter. He will be thrown out with the bathwater if the Dolphins can get ahold of Watson.

"I think he's been locked in, and I think he's played well the last two weeks," Flores said. "Not perfect, but I think he's played well and moved the ball and, you know, given us a chance to to win the last couple weeks. We haven't been able to pull it out, but I think he's ... in a good frame of mind.

"He's dealt with a lot in the last couple couple years with that hip [injury] and obviously last year being a COVID season and not having normal training camp or OTAs and in this season with another injury. So he's dealt with some adversity, he's overcome it. I think he's doing a lot of good things and putting us in good positions."

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to Nicky300@aol.com.

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