Brian Flores makes it clear that Tua Tagovailoa will be the Miami Dolphins quarterback when he is healty. (Craig Davis for Five Reasons Sports Network)

Pressure Point: If Tua is healthy, he’s the Dolphins’ QB—as he should be

The main conclusion about the Dolphins’ 20-3 win Sunday against the hapless Jets (0-11) is Miami did what was needed to hold serve against the worst team in the NFL.

They got the result that was expected. Combined with losses by Las Vegas and Indianapolis, the 7-4 Dolphins moved into the sixth seed (out of seven) in the AFC playoff race.

Individually, cornerback Xavien Howard (seventh interception) and kicker Jason Sanders (two more field goals longer than 50 yards) reaffirmed their status as super stars having All-Pro seasons.

What Sunday’s result didn’t do was ignite a quarterback controversy, though some short-sighted observers are sure to stoke the embers.

Coach Brian Flores nipped that in the bud postgame, asserting that Tua Tagovailoa (thumb injury) will be back at the controls as soon as he is healthy.

Flores: Tua is the guy

“Yeah. If he’s healthy he’s the guy. I don’t know how many different ways I’ve got to say that. You keep asking, I’ll keep answering the same way,” said Flores, adding that Tagovailoa was close to being able to play Sunday.

“He’s dealing with something with the hand. We’ll take it day to day. He’s a tough kid, he wants to be out there,” Flores said. “Thankfully, we have other guys who stepped up.”

Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, in throwing for 257 yards and two touchdowns, provided what any team would hope to get from its backup quarterback.

“It’s good to have Fitz,” Flores said. “He’s obviously a leader on this team. He’s been that for awhile. He’ll continue to be that for this team.”

As Flores pointed out, Fitzpatrick gave a competent, veteran performance. He was particularly effective in utilizing his best receiver, DeVante Parker — something Tua needs to improve at — who had eight receptions for 119 yards.

Fitzpatrick was good enough, not spectacular

But let’s not overstate Fitzpatrick’s performance. He didn’t exactly light up a Jets defense that ranked 30th in the league (29th in pass defense).

He had a run of 10 consecutive completions in the first half. But in the second half his accuracy was erratic.

Notably the Dolphins’ first five possessions in the second half went punt, punt, fumble (Matt Breida), fumble (Patrick Laird), punt. Fitzpatrick finally put together an 80-yard touchdown drive, aided by 32 yards in penalties, to put the Jets out of their misery and one step close to a chance to draft Trevor Lawrence.

The Jets are playing for the future. Frankly, so are the Dolphins.

Granted, Flores has the rebuilding Dolphins in playoff contention much faster than it was reasonable to expect.

They may actually get there, riding the backs of a defense that has blossomed into a high-end unit.

Flores was quick to credit defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, saying, “He’s done a great job the entire year. I think often times people give me too much credit.”

But let’s face it, these Dolphins aren’t constructed to vie with the top teams for a serious run in January. Not with an offense so lacking in playmakers.

Aside from Parker, there is little to fear in the receiving corps, particularly with Preston Williams out for the year and Albert Wilson opting out due to the coronavirus.

Receiver is Dolphins’ biggest draft need

The Dolphins will a chance to address that deficiency in the next draft. Wide receiver should be right at the top of the shopping list. Running back should be another priority, though DeAndre Washington showed some promise with some tough running in the fourth quarter that helped close out the victory.

The lack of depth at receiver is apparent regardless of the quarterback. But Tagovailoa can take a lesson from Fitzpatrick in making better use of Parker, who has the ability to beat defenders for contested balls. And he will.

Remarkably, a surprising number of fans were ready to toss Tua overboard after a poor outing at Denver. That despite leading wins in his first three starts while throwing for six touchdown and zero interceptions.

Some went so far as to suggest the Dolphins made the wrong choice in taking Tagovailoa over Justin Herbert. Even though Tua outplayed Herbert in beating the Chargers the week before.

No question, Fitzpatrick is more poised and in command of the offense than Tagovailoa at this point. He’s been doing it for 17 years.

Tagovailoa has four starts under his belt after having no preseason to aid in getting a grip on playing at this level.

Dolphins must look beyond 2020

Does Fitzpatrick give the Dolphins the better chance to make it to the playoffs? Maybe.

But it’s no certainty. And Flores made it clear that is not the way he is assessing the situation.

“We’ll take this one day at time, try to improve and get better on a daily basis,” Flores said, reiterating the mantra he has recited since Day 1. “I’m actually saying that very sincerely. So to get into a playoff this or that, I’m not really into that. I’m into, let’s get better tomorrow. Let’s prepare for the next opponent.”

So it’s not playoffs 2020, or bust. For Flores, it’s about preparing to make an impact in the playoffs when the ingredients are present to make it happen.

The objective is for Tagovailoa to lead the way. Unfortunately for Dolfans, who have waited so long for an impactful playoff team, that will require a bit more patience.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Tua Tagovailoa experienced his first NFL loss and benching on Sunday. (Craig Davis for Five Reasons Sports Network)

Pressure Point: Tua one of many Dolphins who played poorly in loss to Broncos

This will go down as Tua Tagovailoa’s first NFL defeat after wins in his first three starts.

Also, his first time pulled from a game for ineffectiveness.

All of which he summed up succinctly as: “It just sucks to lose.”

A lot of blame will be directed the rookie’s way in the Miami Dolphins’ 20-13 loss Sunday at Denver which ended a five-game winning streak.

But the Dolphins were beaten the old fashioned way in this one. They got soundly whipped up front.

This was a big change from what we’ve seen throughout Miami’s streak. The Broncos were too physical on the line of scrimmage. On offense and defense.

That was evident in the difference in yardage, 459 to 223, advantage Denver. And in the Broncos’ six sacks to zero for a Dolphins defense that has been so impressive in applying pressure in recent weeks.

Miami’s offensive line, featuring two rookies starting and three seeing action — rookie Solomon Kindley left with an injury and rookie Robert Hunt came in at tackle with Jesse Davis moving to guard — had its poorest game of the season.

Dolphins offense struggles

Often Tagovailoa had no time to set up. When there was time, Tua often took too long to find a receiver. That was due in part to receivers struggling to get open — the absence of Preston Williams, on injured reserve, is apparent.

Coach Brian Flores mentioned the trifecta of inadequacies — Tagovailoa, the line and the receivers.

He made the switch at quarterback to Ryan Fitzpatrick with 10:44 remaining because, “At the end of the day we weren’t moving the ball effectively and I just felt like we needed to give ourselves a spark.”

Flores said Tagovailoa wasn’t injured (he’d been on the injury list with an undisclosed foot issue during the week). He also nipped any quarterback controversy in the bud.

Tagovailoa will start next week against the Jets. As well he should.

Without a doubt, the rookie quarterback played poorly Sunday. The Dolphins punted on six of eight possessions with Tua. The only touchdown drive was 22 yards, set up by Xavien Howard’s interception.

“I felt like I was holding the ball a little bit too long,” Tagovailoa said.

Fitzpatrick provides spark but throws clinching interception

Veteran Fitzpatrick came in and provided a spark, leading the Dolphins to a field goal. Then, after Andrew Van Ginkel forced a fumble at the Miami goal line, driving the Dolphins from their own 1 to the Denver 15.

It was vintage Fitzpatrick. The ol’ gunslinger can come in and lead a dramatic comeback or he can take you to the brink and throw the interception that seals defeat.

The later is what happened as Denver free safety Justin Simmons read Fitzpatrick’s intention on a post to DeVante Parker and cut across to pick it off.

It was a bad day all around for the Dolphins in Denver.

Adding to the frustration, a win would have pulled them even with the Bills atop the AFC East at 7-3. It would have been Miami’s best start in 19 years.

Sure, it’s disappointing. But it’s going to happen on the road in the NFL that a team playing well gets outplayed by one that has been struggling.

Dolphins outplayed, outcoached

The Broncos, now 4-6, not only outplayed the Dolphins, they outcoached them.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio is a heck of a defensive mind. His game plan appeared to confuse Tagovailoa and his defense outmuscled Miami.

Tagovailoa finished 11 of 20 for 83 yards. He still has not officially thrown an interception in the NFL. A penalty negated one Sunday.

The accuracy that Tagovailoa had shown in previous games wasn’t there. When he did look deep, he overthrew speedy Jakeem Grant three times.

His most impressive completion of the day was the three-yard fade to Parker for the only Miami touchdown in the first quarter. Tua has been very good in the red zone. But he was unable to get them there again.

Tagovailoa said the right things about his fourth-quarter benching, saying he recognized it was for the good of the team.

Flores said he isn’t concerned about how the loss and benching will affect Tua: “He’s a confident kid. … I think he’s dealt with a lot of adversity. I think he’s fine.”

Tua said he viewed it as a learning experience.

“It’s one way hearing from Fitz when I come to the sideline. … It may seem like [a receiver is] covered to you. It’s another seeing him going out there and kind of doing it.

“For me, a lot of the time I’ve seen guys were covered but they’re not necessarily cover, if that makes sense. Just being able to see a lot of what Fitz was doing when he got in … a lot of it [was] learning lessons for me.”

Reality check for Dolphins

It was also a reality check for a Dolphins team that perhaps is not as good as it may have appeared during the winning streak.

But for perspective, it was the first loss in two months for a rebuilding team that wasn’t considered ready to compete for a playoff spot this year. And Miami remains very much in the race with winnable games the next two weeks.

Also a reminder that a rookie quarterback in his fourth NFL start, no matter how highly acclaimed, has a lot of learning to do and growing pains to go through.

It could be worse. The Cincinnati Bengals, who play the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium in two weeks, lost prized rookie quarterback Joe Burrow to a season-ending knee injury on Sunday.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Houtz Special: Yes, you should use a waiver claim on Dolphins’ RB Salvon Ahmed

Miami Dolphins RB Salvon Ahmed has looked impressive in Myles Gaskin’s absence. Here’s why you should pick him up in fantasy this week.

Most years, I strut around my fantasy leagues like Connor McGregor, knowing damn well I’m the big dog at the top of the mountain.

But not in 2020. I’ve done terrible this year. Maybe I can blame injuries or unexpected illnesses, but at the end of the day, I just suck.

Which brings me to my point.

I don’t care if you’re in first or last place. PPR or a Tyrannosaurus standard league.


Go to your nearest fantasy league app and search the name ‘SALVON AHMED’. Then decide who on your roster is the weakest link, and smash that claim button without hesitation. Now do this for all of your fantasy leagues.

(NOTE: For those of you who are in dynasty leagues, you probably should’ve picked him up last week. But if you mistakenly passed on him, it’s probably not too late.)

Sure, there are a few other players you could consider.

Chargers fans would suggest Kalen Ballage. And though I do think he’s playing better, I’m not falling down that rabbit hole again. Some other free agent running backs to consider are Rex Burkhead and Devontae Booker. Obviously, every league is different. But you should be able to acquire one of these players, and Ahmed happens to be at the top of my list. (surprise)

But this isn’t rocket science.

If you’re a contender, who knows what might happen where you might find yourself in need of a running back down the stretch.

And if you’re not a contender, why not pick up one of these players to prevent one of your opponents from getting help down the stretch?

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather make things difficult for others than sit by the wayside and watch the weeks slowly pass by. Again, I’m not saying completely burn a nice waiver spot. But if you have the chance to improve your team AND make life difficult for those around, please do. There’s also a very good chance if you’re reading this, you’re a Dolphins fan, which gives you even more of a reason to make a move.

Salvon Ahmed is playing well.

Last week, Ahmed carried the ball 7 times for 38 yards–which was the best we’ve seen from a Dolphins’ rookie running back in his NFL debut since Jay Ajayi in November 2015. Ahmed then followed that up by playing 44 (76%) of the team’s offensive snaps vs. the Chargers, on his way to 22 touches for 90 yards and his first career NFL touchdown. What’s most exciting to see is how quick and decisive he’s been with the football in his hand. Yes, Matt Breida could be back this week, and De’Andre Washington might get more involved in the passing game, but as we saw last week, Flores continues to ride the hot hand.

Miami’s RB coach Eric Studesville had nothing but praise for the rookies’ work habits.

Final Yard

In the end, this Dolphins backfield is hard to predict from a fantasy perspective. Some would say it reminds you of the stable of backs in New England and how they can attack you in a number of different ways. And I’d imagine that’s exactly the way Flores and his staff want it. So, while we all sit here and wait for the inevitable rookie running back in 2021, let’s enjoy what we have.

If you’re a fantasy football contender, put a claim in for Salvon Ahmed. If you’re not, you should too.

It should also go without saying, but if you have Myles Gaskin stashed on your roster, you should add Ahmed as a handcuff. No questions asked.

You can ultimately decide when and where to put Salvon Ahmed in your fantasy lineup, but this late in the season with very few options, he’s worth a dart throw for the Dolphins and your Fantasy football team.


A word from a sponsor of Dolphins content on….

Please take the time to read Jon’s story and remember, any donation helps!


Tua Tagovailoa is 3-0 as a starter for the Miami Dolphins. (Craig Davis for

Pressure Point: Dolphins find more than a QB—they find how to win

The Tua train rolls on.

That would be the simplistic take on the 6-3 Miami Dolphins. It tells only a piece of the story — albeit an important one — though of a team that won all of five games a year ago and now in this very different season is on a five-game winning streak and stands a mere one-half game out of first place in the AFC East.

Much was made ahead of Sunday’s 29-21 Dolphins win over the Los Angeles Chargers about the first meeting between the quarterbacks drafted one pick apart this past April. So give the decision to Tua Tagovailoa (taken at No. 5 by the Dolphins) over Justin Herbert, if you must.

A better gauge is to look at how two teams that finished 5-11 in 2019 have done since that draft.

It is apparent that both teams have found their quarterback. Of greater significance, the Dolphins in their second season under coach Brian Flores have found how to win.

The Chargers, led by Herbert, have piled up impressive stats. Their offense came into Sunday averaging 420 yards a game, nearly 100 more than Miami (322.9).

But they left Hard Rock Stadium with a 2-7 record, all of their losses by a combined 29 points.

Tua puts up numbers that count

Some Dolphins fans seem bothered that Tagovailoa doesn’t have more gaudy numbers after three starts. They want 300-yard games (he has yet to produce one). They want Marino numbers.

What they are getting with Tagovailoa is of greater consequence: efficiency, effectiveness.

On Sunday, two touchdown passes, 169 yards, 106.9 passer rating, no interceptions.

In three starts, he has thrown five touchdown passes — to five different receivers — and has yet to throw a pick.

Tua joined Carson Wentz (2016) as the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to win their first three starts without throwing an interception.

There were no sacks Sunday. A reflection on the pass protection, to be sure, but also on Tua displaying a quick release and ability to escape the rush.

After Sunday’s win Flores was asked about whether this is the style of play he’s seeking from his team — the implication being that the Dolphins are winning without dazzling.

“I’m not really into style, fashion … but playing team football — offense, defense, special teams — if that’s what you mean, everyone involved, everyone’s role is important, good fundamentals, good technique, and just trying to grind out wins in a tough league, every game’s hard.”

Regarding Tagovailoa, Flores said:

“We’ve talked about this. We have a lot of confidence in all our draft picks, that they’re going to develop and improve. He’s no different. That’s what we’re trying to do, develop and improve, and take it week-to-week.”

Many names add up to Dolphins’ win

On Sunday, the Dolphins won again not just because Tua did his part, but also because of names with less recognition like Andrew Van Ginkel (blocked punt that put them on the doorstep of the first touchdown) and Salvon Ahmed, an undrafted rookie who rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown in his first start at running back.

Jakeem Grant had a game-high 43 yards on four receptions and a touchdown, helping fill the void with Preston Williams in injured reserve. He also contributed to favorable field position by averaging 19 yards on three punt returns.

There was unheralded Zach Sieler, a waiver wire pickup last December, continuing to stand out on the defensive line. He had two tackles for loss. On one, he pressured Herbert, who threw short to a back. Sieler hustled back and made the tackle.

There was cornerback Xavien Howard, flagged four times for pass interference a week ago, with a fourth-quarter interception that took the starch out of any Chargers comeback hopes.

There was defensive back Nik Needham, another undrafted player who has forged a key role in his second season. Needham had a sack and broke up a deep pass for three-time Pro Bowl receiver Keenan Allen.

The Miami secondary kept standout Charger wideouts Allen and Mike Williams mostly in check (combined five catches for 77 yards and a meaningless TD to Allen in the final two minutes).

Defense leads Dolphins’ resurgence

It was no accident Herbert had his worst statistical day in eight starts. The Dolphins defense kept him off balance by disguising their intentions on blitzes and coverage.

It is evident that while Tua may be the conductor, the Flores/Josh Boyer defense is the driving force in this run of seven wins in the past eight games.

“I think defensively we played, … We made it hard for them early in the game, getting off the field on third down. A lot of guys played well. I thought there was good communication, really across the board defensively, the kicking game, offensively,” Flores said.

Also notable was the response of center Ted Karras in standing up for the botched exchange with Tagovailoa as the Dolphins were on the verge of taking a 21-0 lead. Karras said his hands were wet with sweat in explaining why the ball squirted out like a greased pigskin and took full responsibility.

That one play swung the momentum to the Chargers and led to the outcome being in doubt until Howard’s interception.

It was Tua who chased down Nick Vigil and made the tackle on the fumble return.

“Well, that’s a gutsy play and one of the plays of the game and something that is just great team football and not on my part, on that play, and that hurts,” Karras said. “You want to always be the guy to be old reliable, but this team is so fun to play with and there’s a brotherhood here and I think that’s why it hurt me so much. But we rallied … We won the game and we’re going to keep rolling.”

Just another indication that these Dolphins are buying into Flores’ message of everyone doing whatever it takes to grind out wins, whatever it takes.

Including Tua, who ended his postgame media session by declaring, “Go, Fins!”

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns


Dolphins Rams

Tua, Dolphins Defeat Chargers 29-21 in Action-Packed Performance

The storyline of this game was all about a rookie quarterback battle between Tua Tagovailoa and the Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert.

And in some ways, that was exactly what happened. But perhaps more so, this game was about stone cold efficiency on all three sides of the ball. And where the Chargers faltered, the Dolphins delivered.

On the second play of the game, Nik Needham sacked Justin Herbert, setting up a third down conversion the Chargers couldn’t complete. On the punt deep in their own territory, Andrew Van Ginkel stepped up for a key block and recovery that led to the Dolphins’ first TD, a 1-yard run by Salvon Ahmed in the second minute of the game. The scoring drive summary was one play for one yard in four seconds.

That set the tone for the rest of the game with the Fins only punting twice. Tua Tagovailoa put together a number of excellent drives with the help of runningback Salvon Ahmed (85 yards, 1 TD), who got the start with three of the Fins’ top RBs out. Jakeem Grant proved he wasn’t just a return specialist as he averaged almost 11 yards per reception, and even Durham Smythe got in on the party on a beautifully designed touchdown play by offensive coordinator Chan Gailey that saw every member of the Chargers defense run in the exact opposite direction they should’ve been going in.

Los Angeles put up a fight and the Fins looked a bit lackluster after a mishandled snap by center Ted Karras in the second quarter, but they rallied in the third after a huge interception by Xavien Howard. “It changed the momentum,” the star cornerback said simply after the game. Howard and fellow cornerback Byron Jones effectively shut down the Chargers’ star wideout, Keenan Allen, who only totaled 39 yards on the day. He was targeted seven times and only reeled in three, thanks in large part to the Fins’ stellar secondary.

The Dolphins’ defense took Herbert down for two sacks (including one by Emmanuel Ogbah, who has a sack in six straight games) and eight QB hits. Five tackles for loss and six passes defensed ended in a largely dominant performance that the Chargers just couldn’t match.

Perhaps the real stars of the day, the offensive line protected the Fins’ most valuable offensive asset to near perfection and created opportunities all over the field for Salvon Ahmed. Outside of Karras’ misstep, the O-line stood strong and had arguably their best performance of the season. Tagovailoa was only hit once throughout the entire game and not sacked at all. Although he had a couple of lucky throws that perhaps should’ve been interceptions, he ended the day 3-0 as a starter with zero interceptions and five touchdowns on his rookie season. Not bad for a rookie with a bad hip.

The need-to-know in Canes recruiting: Offense

Since the 2020 season kicked off, Miami’s noise on the recruiting trail has died dow just a tad bit but the momentum is still strong. The 9th-ranked Canes sit with 21 commits for the 2021 class, which is ranked 9th in the nation and 2nd in the ACC. So where does Miami stand with each position and what names should you be familiar with heading into next month’s Early Signing Period? Here’s some updates for you on the offensive side of the ball. 



Commits: None


Targets: Jake Garcia (Loganville Grayson, GA)


As the saying goes, you need a quarterback in every class. Regardless of how many you have on their roster or how many you took in the previous class, YOU NEED A QUARTERBACK. I think everyone can agree that a surplus of QB’s on your roster is better than a shortage.


At this point, there’s pretty much only one guy that QBs coach/OC Rhett Lashlee has his sights set on and that’s Valdosta’s (GA) Jake Garcia. Garcia is originally from El Habra, CA but transferred to Valdosta after the state of California pushed back the 2020 high school football season to at least this upcoming spring. That meant no senior season for Garcia and with family living in the Atlanta area, it was a move that both him and his family were up for. However, Garcia’s season was cut short recently. After an ESPN feature story on how his family made the move and how he was cleared to transfer, two neighboring (and rival) schools of Valdosta filed a complaint. Somehow and some way, Garcia was allowed to transfer AGAIN to Grayson High in nearby Loganville, GA and play immediately. 



Miami’s been on his tail for quite a while, even while he’s been committed to USC, and this will continue to be a recruitment to watch for two reasons: the first is that he is one of two QBs committed to the Trojans (Miller Moss), and secondly, USC recently offered another QB out of Utah. That can only mean that they do not feel comfortable with the commitment status of one of their QB’s (take a wild guess). But according to some of the guests we’ve had on The Sixth Ring (Gaby Urritia of 247Sports and Stefan Adams of CanesInsight), for how long this saga has dragged on, it is concerning that Garcia has not switched his commitment. The situation is definitely fluid at this point.


Running Back

Commits: Thaddeus Franklin (Hollywood Chaminade Madonna, FL)


The Canes currently have four scholarship backs on the team, including two highly-touted freshmen in Jaylan Knighton and Don Chaney, but there’s a decent possibility that Knighton and Chaney could be the only two backs left in 2021. There’s also junior Cam Harris, who could opt for the NFL Draft, and Robert Burns, who I’m predicting to grad transfer in lieu of more playing time at another program. 


It’s looking more likely that they’re going to stick with just Franklin, the 6’2” bruiser back out of Broward County, as their only other target was Miami Central’s Amari Daniels. Daniels recently committed to Texas A&M. 


Wide Receiver

Commits: Jacolby George (Plantation, FL), Romello Brinson (Miami Northwestern, FL), Brashard Smith (Miami Southridge, FL)


The haul at receiver as of now should bring much excitement for Canes fans moving forward. In my opinion, Brinson is very underrated with solid speed and excellent footwork, even as the 24th-best receiver in the nation. Standing 6’2”, 180 lbs, he’s bound to fight for playing time in 2021 and could be a WR1 in the future. His skill set was on full display against Miami Southridge and five-star Florida commit Jason Marshall.



Miami also has Jacolby George committed, who’s also a four-star recruit, is probably the best receiver in Broward County and is not that far behind Brinson in the rankings. George only weighs in at 161 so he probably needs a year or two to add weight to see substantial playing time. 


To finish it off, Brashard Smith is on the shorter end of the stick at 5’8” but he is the ideal fit for Rhett Lashlee’s offense in the slot. 247Sports’ Andrew Ivins describes him as “a menace in the slot that’s capable of scoring anytime he touches the ball.”


Tight End

Commits: Elijah Arroyo (Independence Frisco, TX), Khalil Brantley (Miami Northwestern, FL)


Miami’s set, pretty much. The Canes should expect to lose Brevin Jordan after this season and possibly Will Mallory, which would leave them with just two scholarship tight ends in Larry Hodges and Dominic Mammarelli. Arroyo is a four-star prospect, ranked as the third-best tight end in the nation according to 247Sports and he’s been a star for Frisco so far this season. Through the first 3 games, he’s had 15 catches for 321 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. Brantley is one of three Miami Northwestern commits in the fold and is a key piece of the Bulls as they are considered to be the best high school team in South Florida. 


Offensive Line

Commits: Laurence Seymore (Miami Central, FL), Michael McLaughlin (Parkland Stoneman Douglas, FL), Ryan Rodriguez (Miami Christopher Colombus, FL)


Targets: Austin Barber (Jacksonville Trinity Christian Academy, FL)


Yeah yeah, you’ve heard the concerns about Miami’s OL from the past couple of years. For the most part, there’s still a lot of youth and inexperience but as it stands, Miami has a great trio of linemen committed and they’re the best of the best in South Florida. The highest-rated commit is Laurence Seymore, who is rated as the 10th-best guard in the country. Seymore is also Miami’s longest-tenured commit, having been committed since March of 2018. The 6’7” McLaughlin has since added good weight since committing to the Canes earlier this year and is hitting close to 300 pounds. Rodriguez looks to be the center of the future for Miami and is next in line to replace Corey Gaynor after this season. 


One name to watch going forward is Austin Barber out of Jacksonville. He recently backed off his pledge to Minnesota and OL coach Garin Justice has made frequent contact with him. However, as Adams reported on our show, it’s still relatively early in Miami’s chase for Barber and considering Miami now has 3 spots open, I would not be surprised if things heat up in Miami’s favor.


Be sure to look out for another episode of The Sixth Ring on Friday night as we preview the Canes taking on Virginia Tech. Stay tuned to @5ReasonsCanes and @PaulAustria_ on Twitter for the latest in Hurricanes news and catch us on The Sixth Ring show twice a week as well pre and post-game.


Also, sign up for an account on, where you can pick the over/under on fantasy projections on some of your favorite players. Enter the promo code “five” to double your initial deposit.


The Rise of the (Miami) King

Manny Diaz didn’t hesitate.

The Miami Hurricanes had come out flat against North Carolina State. The Wolfpack had gone 89 yards in 6 plays to take a 7-0 lead. The last thing Miami wanted to do was punt the ball back to NC State.

So no, Manny Diaz didn’t hesitate. Instead, he put the ball in the hands of his best player, D’Eriq King. That faith paid off when King galloped 42 yards for a 1st down.

When Miami finished the drive with a TD, we knew that King’s run had lifted the Canes back into the game, providing a platform from which to build.

What we didn’t know is that for the next 4 quarters, D’Eriq King would put on a performance that would put him in the same breath of any of the great QBs that ever played at QB U.

Miami’s defense crumbled against the precision passing of backup QB Bailey Hockman. But every time the Wolfpack would threaten to separate, there was King and the Canes, answering back.

NC State’s strategy was simple. They didn’t respect King’s ability to connect on deep passes. And they had reason. Miami had struggled to connect downfield all year. So they loaded up on the run and dared Miami’s maligned, COVID-depleted receiving corps to get open. Dared King to beat them with his arm.

And in a gutty all-around performance from the Canes’ passing game, the Miami WRs got open and King hit them over and over again. King finished 31-41 for 430 yards and 5 TDs, spreading the ball around to Mike Harley, Mark Pope, Will Mallory, and Dee Wiggins, all of whom stepped up repeatedly to make big plays.

Despite all of this offensive explosion, Miami played from behind much of the game.  When Chris Dunn nailed a 53-yard FG at the beginning of the 4th quarter to put the Wolfpack up 41-31, he gesticulated towards the Canes bench, crudely suggesting that they fellate him.

What Dunn and the rest of the Wolfpack didn’t know is that the Canes were about to rally late like Joe Biden with mail-in ballots.

We must give the Canes’ defense some credit here. After an abhorrent first 3 quarters , Miami’s defense would hold NC State to 6 yards and also intercepted a pass in this miraculous 4th quarter.

Still, it fell to King to erase the deficit. After a 54 yard FG drive, the Canes drove again, this time for what appeared to be a tying TD. Twice, the Canes entered the end zone, and twice the refs denied them. Once again, they settled for a FG, cutting the lead to four.

When Miami got the ball back, an intentional grounding penalty (a rare King mistake)  put the Canes 92 yards from the end zone. With under 4 minutes left, this was it. 92 yards. 2nd and 18. The pressure on King was immense. He had to deliver or the season might well unravel.

King did what he did all game. He lifted his team and elevated his program. First, he hit Harley for 35 yards to get the Canes out from their own end zone. 3 plays later, on 3rd and 7, he hit Harley again, this time for 54 yards and the go ahead TD. Those 2 passes totaled 89 yards.

After an interception, Miami still needed to run the clock out. They ran twice for a total of 4 yards. With 2:20 left, and NC State out of timeouts, Miami needed just 6 yards for an improbable comeback. There was only one player to get the ball to, and the Canes exploited one of the great ironies of the game. NC State entered the game hoping to load up on the run, and force King to win the game throwing the ball. And King did that. But NC State also failed to stop King on designed runs. And on this critical 3rd and 6, King ended the game the way he started it…on a designed run for a critical 1st down.

After traveling 430 yards through the air and 105 yards on the ground, the King could finally rest, having carried his team to victory in perhaps the best individual performance in school history. As this virtuoso performance was unfolding, the game continued to hang in the balance, with the Canes trailing for much of it. Which made it difficult to appreciate in the moment.

But in retrospect, the unique magnificence of this performance is unbelievable, even to those of us who witnessed it. We’ll likely never see something like this again. Miami is now a Top 10 team again, having recovered from the Clemson loss with 3 consecutive wins. But it was the singular figure of the undersized transfer QB who came to Miami to elevate the program and did so in a spectacular fashion that we’ll remember long after this season is over.

For one game, D’Eriq King was the finest QB to ever line up under center for the University of Miami.

Vishnu Parasuraman is a contributor for @FiveReasonsSports and generally covers the Miami Hurricanes. You can follow him on twitter @vrp2003

Tua Tagovailoa says the Dolphins did what they had to against a tough Cardinals team.

Pressure Point: Dolphins are Tua’s team now

The rush to judgment on Tua Tagovailoa after a debut start with training wheels on was not only premature it was laughable.

Coach Brian Flores made that clear at midweek when he brushed off as nonsense the notion that the Dolphins were giving the quarterback they supposedly tanked to get in the draft a 10-game audition to determine whether they should draft another quarterback in 2021.

If it is an audition, Tagovailoa passed with flying colors Sunday in his second start.

The Dolphins not only pulled off a remarkable comeback win, 34-31, on the road against a tough Arizona Cardinals team, they can confirm to have indeed found their quarterback. The outside noise can stop right there.

It was entertaining and exhilarating to watch. How long has it been since the Dolphins not only kept pace in a wide-open shootout but came out ahead?

It sure conjured memories of Danny Boy flinging it in his prime.

Tua made plays down the stretch

Tua got his first win last week on the coattails of an opportunistic defense. Afterward Flores said that one day Tua would bail out the team. Sunday he did just that in leading his first comeback win with 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

Make that Tua-and-0.

“I thought he made a lot of plays for us, a lot of big plays for us, especially down the stretch. We needed it,” Flores said. “They made plays, we made plays. The stage wasn’t too big for him tonight. He played well. But we had a lot of guys play well. … It was a team effort.”

Kudos to the defense for producing the first touchdown and making a vital fourth-down stop. And for field goals of 56 and 50 yards by Jason Sanders, who set a franchise record with 20 consecutive made kicks.

But the 10-play, 93-yard drive to the tying touchdown made it clear this is Tua’s team now.

The drive, which began with the Dolphins down by a touchdown, gained impetus with Tagovailoa, in the shadow of his own end zone, converting on third-and-9 with a 14-yard completion to DeVante Parker.

It featured Tagovaila twice scrambling for first downs. The first he converted on third down by juking past a defender. The second was a stunning escape from pressure for 17 yards to the Arizona 11. The following play he tossed a pinpoint strike to Mack Hollins to tie the game.

Then, following a fourth-down stop by Zack Seiler, Tua moved the Dolphins close enough for Sanders’ decisive 50-yard field goal.

Tua dazzled on the run

The runs were eye-opening, especially considering the hip injury that ended Tagovailoa’s college career.

“I think the dolphins organization, with everyone from the medical staff, if they felt that they would be putting me in a bad situation if I had to go and make a play on the run, I don’t think they’d let me go out there and play.

“I had self-confidence I would be able to go out there and if I needed to make a play with my legs, I would.”

He added with a laugh: “That was probably the slowest I ever felt. Oh, my goodness, I felt like I was running in quicksand.”

The Tua and Kyler Show, a renewal of college rivals, delivered beyond expectations. Tagovailoa and Arizona’s Kyler Murray combined for 672 yards.

Tua did his part in matching skills and scores with the superlative Murray, whose accuracy and ability to evade tacklers is uncanny.

The No. 1 draft pick in 2019, Murray has been performing for a season and a half the way he did Sunday. He threw for 283 yards and three touchdowns with a passer rating of 150.0.

Tua keeps pace with Murray

Tua? Frankly, it was uncertain what to expect other than that he would be asked to do a lot more than in his first start.

All he did was complete 20 of 28 passes for 248 yards, two touchdowns and a 122.3 passer rating. His 35 yards on seven rushes were second on the team.

But the passing was what everyone wanted to see, and Tua delivered on every type of throw that could be asked of him.

He did it with a limited receiving corps. Preston Williams left with a foot injury in the first half after catching a touchdown pass and getting jumped on by man-child defensive lineman Christian Wilkins.

But Tua not only made effective use of his best receiver, Parker, who made all six of his receptions after Williams left, he threw that spot-on tying touchdown to Hollins, who had no previous receptions as a Dolphin.

Tagovailoa show he can setp up in the pocket and deliver completions. He threw accurately on the run.

In the first half, he made a deep throw to Williams for 35 yards on the first touchdown drive. On the second scoring drive, he found Williams on third down near the goal line for a touchdown.

He found tight end Durham Smythe over the middle on the third look for 19 yards and a first-and-goal that set up Miami’s first touchdown.

Just the beginning for Tua

“Tua did his part. It wasn’t a perfect game. He made some mistakes like we all did,” Flores said, but added, “He fought back, we fought back as a team and gave ourselves a chance to win at the end.”

The Dolphins have now won four in a row for the first time in four seasons. At 5-3, they are very much in the playoff chase, perhaps a season sooner than expected.

When you look at the bigger picture, the future comes into much brighter focus. Just two starts into his career, Tagovailoa has already demonstrated he can be the quarterback of the Dolphins’ hopes and dreams.

And he is going to get better than he was Sunday.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns


Dolphins offense knows it must play better to go toe-to-toe with Cardinals

Tua Tagovailoa’s first NFL start didn’t go exactly as many expected. And while I don’t think anyone thought he would have a big performance vs. one of the best defenses in football, we did expect more than what we saw.

Maybe, we are at fault.

After all, this was Tagovailoa’s first action since a year prior when he suffered a horrific injury—that some thought may end any chance at a professional career. It was also during an unprecedented offseason, where most–if not all–of the first-team reps went to the veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

On Sunday, the hip looked fine as Tua moved fluidly and played a full 60 minutes for Miami in a 28-17 win over the Rams.

Tagovailoa finished 12/22 for 93 yards and one touchdown. The numbers weren’t jaw-dropping, but I think we all realize Miami’s early lead affected the play-calling as did the Rams pressure upfront.

Nevertheless, Tua and his arsenal of weapons must play much better Sunday vs. Arizona–and that includes every aspect of the game.

Cardinals QB Kyler Murray is an entirely different animal for Miami’s defense to prepare for. And although Kenyan Drake might not get the revenge game he had hoped, Chase Edmonds has been every bit, if not, more impressive than Drake in 2020. And let’s not forget De’Andre Hopkins, arguably the best WR in football. Add the timeless-legend Larry Fitzgerald and the man, the myth, the legend, Christian Kirk. Miami’s defense will have their hands full.

But just like we saw the defense step up last week when the team needed it most. The offense is going to need to do much more this week.

As we heard yesterday from offensive guard Solomon Kindley, Miami’s offensive line comes into each game expecting to keep Tua clean. That didn’t happen on Sunday, and the end result led to a fumble that inevitably leads to a Robert Woods touchdown.

Miami’s wide receivers must do more.

Miami’s game plan was to get the ball out of Tua’s hands quickly. Gailey also moved the pocket for his young QB by using designed rollouts to help counter Aaron Donald and the Rams’ vaunted defense.

However, there were also instances where Tagovailoa’s wide receivers dropped the ball.

Literally and figuratively. And with Isaiah Ford headed to New England, Brian Flores needs someone, anyone, to step up.

One player who specifically needs to correct some of his consistency issues is second-year WR Preston Williams.

Williams had two drops vs. Los Angeles on Sunday. And while I won’t sit here and pretend they were game-altering miscues, they did end a few drive pre-maturely.

Another player that Tua and the Dolphins could rely heavily on is speedy wideout, Jakeem Grant.

We all know Grant is a workout warrior, but besides a monster Monday Night Football game vs. the Patriots, he’s been kept quiet for most of his career. Unless, of course, you factor in his kick returns, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Grant admits the Dolphins skill-players need to do better, which is why the team has put in the extra work (after hours) to correct some of the obvious timing issues.

“The Cardinals put up numbers and we know that we’ve got to go out there and execute to the tee. We stayed after practice. We got our timing right. All of us as receivers, we stayed after practice with Tua (Tagovailoa) just to get our timing right, so we know that we’ve got to go out there and dominate. We can’t have a game like we had last week.”

Malcolm Perry, another player that could see his role expanded over the coming weeks, had nothing but high praise for Tua.


Most important, however, is that Tua Tagovailoa is aware he needs to do much more to put this offense in a position to succeed.

“I think there’s room for improvement every day for me. I’m getting more comfortable in the huddle talking to the guys, getting the plays out and kind of seeing where everyone needs to go. I think the biggest thing for me is pocket presence. Being able to just step up into what feels like pressure and then also just making the throws that I need to give the receivers good run after catch.”

The Final Yard

From Tua to the offensive line, to the play-calling to the skill-players, Miami’s offense must play much better on Sunday. And everyone knows it. Now they must go out there and execute, and that’s exactly what I expect them to do. We know they won’t have RB1 Myles Gaskin. And to go toe-to-toe with one of the best offenses in football, EVERYONE will need to bring their A-game.

The Left Arm of God’s first start didn’t go as planned. But don’t let that deter you from your initial thoughts. Tagovailoa is everything we had hoped for and more. Good things come to those who wait, and for most Dolphins’ fans, the wait dates back to March 2000 when Dan Marino took off his cleats for the last time.

Last week’s game may not have gone exactly as we had hoped. But this is the game that Gailey and the Dolphins #LetTuaCook.

It’s time.


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Hungry Dolphins Fans Should Be Craving For More Tua

Ok, I’ll say what everyone else was thinking: I was really hoping that the stat line in Tua Tagovailoa’s first pro-career start would be something like 20-25, 250 yards, and 3 touchdowns topped off with 3 rushes for 30 yards and a rushing touchdown that had him carrying Aaron Donald on his back like Bo Jackson with Brian Bosworth. Tua would be smiling that contagious smile, dancing on the sidelines to reggaeton, and playfully bantering with Ryan Fitzpartrick and the squad of Fitzpatrick children. Of course, this would be all in a Dolphins victory.


Well, I got the Dolphins victory part correct.


The Miami Dolphins beat the Los Angeles Rams 28-17 in a game that should not have been as close as the score seems to indicate whenever people review the headlines Monday morning. That incredible first half was all that I could have asked for, though I was hoping Chan Gailey would break out the Statue of Liberty play or throw in a flea flicker. Nope. Not on the menu.


Dolphins fans, this was enjoyable to watch despite the cardiac nature of the finish. The constant pressure put on Jared Goff via well-timed, excellently executed blitzes was such a marvel. There was even a Jakeem Grant sighting as he returned a punt for a touchdown. Heck, even Andrew Van Ginkel got in on the act. Who out there would’ve expected that?


Despite all of the pyrotechnics of the first half, this was the Tua game. This game had the hype of Tua but the aftertaste of a very satisfying complete team victory. But truth be told, I really wanted more Tua. We all wanted more Tua.


As Miami Dolphins fans, we are so starved for a QB to give us a Dan Marino-eque lift that we glom onto anyone that feels like will come within the same time zone of that possibility. We all know that Tua represents the best chance of quelling that hunger. And no, I did not feel that way with Ryan Tannehill, though I am happy he is enjoying success in Tennessee, having rid himself of the Adam Gase stink.


Tua is different. He comes with a pedigree and a resume of success that we have not recently seen in a QB we have drafted since, dare I say, Chad Henne? Was he the closest?


In this, the seventh game of the season, we were given the opportunity to see it all come together. But rather than it be the showcasing of a franchise changing QB, we were gifted a team that came together very Voltron-like to get the dub. You’re lying if you weren’t wanting Tua and what he accomplished in his first game to be the headline for all of the major networks. We wanted to get drunk off of the coverage.


Rest easy Dolphins fans, there will be opportunities for more. Chan Gailey isn’t going to horde the meatier, tastier parts of the playbook. I am willing to bet that it is going to be a buffet of play calls. Chan was kind enough to tip his hand with that Wildcat play as a tease of things to come. Sure on that play Aaron Donald engulfed Malcolm Perry and Malcolm Perry’s entire family, but it was a taste. And a staple of all the upcoming menus will be Tua Tagovailoa.


We were robbed of several promising drives that could have given us a longer look at the Tua possibilities had it not been for some uncharacteristic dropped passes courtesy of Preston Williams. That will be a bitter taste if only because it would have also been more live reps as he acclimates to the rigors of professional life, pro-players, and his own teammates.


Fear not, it will come with time.


Dolphins fans, if you are in any way down because the stat line was not what you had hoped or that you were deprived of a Marvel Cinematic Universe level debut, I think we can take pause. I think it’s safe to say that we should take a pause for several weeks. One game does not a career make. 


The fact that this all came in a victory where all three areas of the team–offense, defense, and special teams–contributed to scores and excelled makes us both sated and yet wanting more. Our hunger is magnified because this victory came as a result of a complete team effort. We’re all thinking, “Man what if Tua had just gone stat machine crazy out there?”


But much of the offense looked rather pedestrian, as per the stats. The most exciting play on offense besides Tua’s first touchdown pass, a three yarder to Devante Parker, came on the second play of the game. And it wasn’t exciting in the traditional sense.


I took a long gasp as Aaron Donald did Aaron Donald things, driving Tua and causing a fumble. I was like a corner man yelling for his boxer to get up, which he did. But with no pre-season and red jerseys in practice, it was good for him to get the rust off and get the first contact out of the way. The first drive was pretty difficult to swallow.


Over a year ago, before wearing a mask was a polarizing test of one’s citizenship, I wrote about how I really wanted newly acquired QB Josh Rosen to succeed. He was a high draft pick with a good arm and the smarts. Looking on the menu of quarterbacks who were drafted that year, I told myself, “Why not try it out?”


I can play the hindsight game now and say that the Rosen one was not the Chosen One. This is to illustrate just how desperate we were as fans. 


It also illustrated just how low we had set the bar. It has since been raised.


Stats be damned, I believe we have sushi grade Tua. There is a swagger that is all confidence and toes nowhere near arrogance. Once he has his sea legs under him, he will exude even more confidence and it will be infectious.


I may not 100 percent trust the organization to properly handle dispensing the news of starting Tua to incumbent starter Ryan Fitzpatrick or even septuagenarian offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.  But I do trust this staff in handling him properly. I do trust that the training wheels will come off much sooner than we think and the order of the day will be a healthy dose of Hall of Fame trending Miami Dolphins quarterback not named Marino or Griese.


Sounds pretty damn appetizing to me.


Next week and in the weeks to come, Dolphins fans we will feast.