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Dolphins QB questions at forefront as Tua Tagovailoa remains in concussion protocol – Boston Herald

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The Miami Dolphins face long odds to pull off a playoff upset in Buffalo against the Bills, but if they want to give it their best shot, they’re going to need their starting quarterback on the field.

Tua Tagovailoa’s status remains in doubt after he missed a second consecutive game in last Sunday’s win over the New York Jets, recovering from a concussion suffered Dec. 25 and continuing through a five-step league protocol to return. He had not yet returned to practice when the Dolphins last held drills on Friday and would first have to get cleared through limited sessions before going through full practice participation.

The Dolphins are not counting him out for their first playoff game in six years, though.

Coach Mike McDaniel said, as of Monday evening, Tagovailoa was still not cleared for the stage in protocol where he can practice. What the third-year quarterback has been up to is aerobic and cardiovascular exercise. McDaniel alluded to Tagovailoa sweating, implying he is either in Phase 2 or early in Phase 3 of the five steps in the return-to-play protocol.

Aside from that, McDaniel was vague in his updates on the left-handed thrower’s progress, due mostly to he himself maintaining a distance from doctors’ work with Tagovailoa until he can return to the practice field.

“I try to stay in my level of expertise because the primary concern is that we lean on medical professionals for these medical opinions,” McDaniel said Monday, “and I don’t want to influence by over-asking or trying to micromanage what the process is. When he’s medically cleared to practice, he’ll practice. Until then, I’m not doing anything.”

McDaniel added Tagovailoa was in “good spirits through the weekend, and there is no setback or concern with regard to [Monday]. He’s feeling good.”

Backup Teddy Bridgewater, recovering from a dislocated pinky finger on his throwing hand, advanced to the point of throwing late last week, but McDaniel opted to only keep him active as an emergency option for the Jets game and started third-string rookie Skylar Thompson, who had the practice reps throughout last week. McDaniel noted “bumps and bruises” for Thompson coming out of the 11-6 playoff berth-clinching victory.

“We have a lot of question marks,” McDaniel said about the quarterback situation following the win in the regular-season finale.

And with little clarity on the quarterback situation Monday, McDaniel is hoping to have better clarity Wednesday when the team returns to drills. With players away from team facilities Monday, Tuesday is another off day.

Star receiver Tyreek Hill is hopeful to have his top quarterback with him at Buffalo.

“We definitely love Tua,” Hill said after the Jets game. “The last time we played against the Bills, Tua put on a really good showing. Just to have him out there — another captain, another leader — would be great.”

Thompson went 20 of 31 for 152 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions in his second career start, managing the game without a costly mistake. After the veteran Bridgewater got to the point where he was close late last week, he should be more likely to go for this Sunday’s 1 p.m. wild-card matchup. McDaniel said the team will be preparing game plans for all three quarterbacks early in the week.

“If Tua can’t go, I would expect it to be Teddy, who is good enough to give them a shot,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport told the Pat McAfee Show, “but obviously, you want Tua out there if he is healthy. That is your guy, and that gives you the best/only chance to win.”

Miami indeed is a heavy underdog. The Bills are 10 1/2-point favorites, according to Vegas Insider.

The Dolphins, according to FiveThirtyEight, are deemed to have an 11 percent chance to make the divisional round, 2 percent chance to make the conference championship, 0.5 percent chance to reach the Super Bowl and 0.2 percent chance to win the Super Bowl.

Other injury concerns

Beyond the quarterbacks, Miami has a number of other injuries to monitor throughout the week before Sunday’s kickoff.

The availability of left tackle Terron Armstead, who missed the past two games between toe, pectoral, knee and hip injuries, is paramount for whoever ends up starting behind center.

Running back Raheem Mostert broke his thumb, as he did not return to the Jets game after exiting with 71 yards on 11 carries. Although he seems unlikely to play, McDaniel is not counting him out against the Bills, as of Monday.

Along with Armstead on the left side, right tackle Brandon Shell left the win over the Jets with knee and ankle ailments and didn’t return. Left guard Liam Eichenberg had an arm injury but was able to return.

Hill and fellow receiver Jaylen Waddle also suffered ankle injuries against the Jets. Hill played through his, but Waddle didn’t return after his injury came late, on the tackle that went for a horse-collar penalty to set up Jason Sanders’ winning field goal. McDaniel said he would be surprised if Waddle can’t play at Buffalo.

Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, working through hand and ankle ailments, was limited to 18 snaps against the Jets. Cornerback Xavien Howard, while playing through all 56 defensive snaps, is nursing a knee injury that caused him to miss the previous week’s loss to the New England Patriots.

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