The Miami Dolphins’ preseason finale against the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night served as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s in-game debut with new star receiver Tyreek Hill, and the fireworks were there from their first play together at Hard Rock Stadium.
With Tagovailoa and Hill both starting the last of three exhibition games, Tagovailoa connected with Hill on a 51-yard pass deep over the middle off play-action with Hill making a diving reception to secure the football.
The two then hooked up again on the second play from scrimmage as Hill streaked across the field for a 13-yard gain. After running back Raheem Mostert then handled his first preseason carry as a Dolphin for a 3-yard gain, Tagovailoa found receiver River Cracraft wide open in the end zone off play-action for an 8-yard touchdown to cap the opening four-play series.
The Dolphins announced a shorter-than-expected list of 10 players “not expected to play” 90 minutes before kickoff.
Among the names on the list: Left tackle Terron Armstead, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, cornerback Xavien Howard and running back Chase Edmonds.
With Tagovailoa and Hill not among those deemed unavailable, they then trotted out onto the field dressed for pregame warmups. Tagovailoa was also seen by cameras going through a pregame routine two and a half ours before kickoff. In last week’s exhibition against the Las Vegas Raiders, Tagovailoa was seen going through a routine four and a half hours ahead of kickoff.
Last week, Hill was also not on the initial list, but Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel opted not to play him right before kickoff, as he did with Mostert and outside linebacker Melvin Ingram.
Most of the available first-team defense, sans Howard, started on the opening defensive series. Nik Needham, Noah Igbinoghene and undrafted rookie Kader Kohou were the three cornerbacks with Kohou in the nickel. The series ended in a fourth-down run stop from defensive tackle Zach Sieler for a turnover on downs.
Mostert also flashed his speed to the outside for a 26-yard gain on a run to the right when the Dolphins’ starters, including Tagovailoa, remained on the field for the second drive. Tagovailoa was sacked, with right tackle Austin Jackson at fault, on the series that was capped by a Jason Sanders 55-yard field goal.
Armstead sat out the entire preseason after recovering from offseason knee surgery but seeing his practice workload in training camp increase in recent weeks. Howard also sat for a third straight exhibition but not due to injury.
Waddle missed the past two weeks of practice in what McDaniel deemed a “preventative” measure with an undisclosed injury.
The Dolphins also had fullback Alec Ingold, outside linebackers Andrew Van Ginkel and Brennan Scarlett, cornerback Keion Crossen, linebacker Calvin Munson and tight end Tanner Conner as players who won’t dress on Saturday.
Ingold, returning from a torn ACL in his knee last season, was the one player McDaniel had said this past week would certainly suit up for the exhibition, but he still ended up inactive. Van Ginkel had his appendix removed.
With Armstead not seeing action, the Dolphins started Greg Little with the first-team offensive line at left tackle, after showing him there in pregame warmups. Little missed the previous two weeks, and Larnel Coleman was in that spot as Armstead sat.
Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones was an additional name that didn’t play on Saturday as he remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list coming off offseason lower left leg surgery. Miami also has cornerbacks Mackensie Alexander and Trill Williams, tight end Adam Shaheen and fullback John Lovett on injured reserve.
The Eagles opted to rest their starters for the exhibition.