Mon, 25 Jan 2021

Miami Downgrades Rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa to Doubtful; Green & White Again Seek to Secure 1st Win Randy Lange

Change has happened quickly in the NFL this season and not all of it virus-related.

Six days ago, for instance, it appeared as if "young gun" Tua Tagovailoa was going to be taking on "old-timer" Joe Flacco when the Jets hosted the Dolphins at MetLife Stadium this afternoon.

Instead, the QB matchup with be young gun Sam Darnold vs. old-timer Ryan Fitzpatrick. Darnold's shoulder injury has progressed to where Head Coach Adam Gase has installed him as the Jets' starting QB after the third-year Darnold missed the previous two games and four of the past six games with the injury.

Meanwhile, Tagovailoa, after making the past four starts as Miami's first-round rookie signal-caller, jammed the thumb on his left throwing hand at Wednesday's practice and went from being listed as questionable on Friday to doubtful on Saturday. Dolphins HC Brian Flores has announced that Fitzpatrick, a.k.a. "The Beard," is back for the 145th regular-season start of his 16-year NFL career and his 16th start against the Jets. (He also made 27 starts for the Jets in 2015-16.)

For Darnold and the offense, the change continues with the merging of the Jets QB for the first time in a game with all three starting wideouts, Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims.

That and the late awakening of TE Chris Herndon with two excellent receptions at the L.A. Chargers a week ago, could help the Green & White continue their recent offensive uptick. After the Jets scored seven offensive touchdowns in their first eight games combined, they scored seven TDs the past two weeks with Flacco at the controls.

The biggest change of all for Green & White fans would be if the Jets could rise up and mesh all their units into a complete team effort to end their winless season. At 4-8 last year, they did it at home against the Dolphins, with Darnold besting Fitzpatrick in the Meadowlands and Sam Ficken adding the necessary 44-yard walk-off field goal for the 22-21 December win. (Ficken, with a lingering groin injury, has gone to IR, so first-year man Sergio Castillo returns to do the placekicking today.)

In their history, the Jets have won only four of 19 meetings against opponents who had a record entering the game that was at least six wins better than the Jets' record. But those four wins stand out over the years:

■ The first time the Jets played Minnesota, at Shea Stadium in 1970, they were 3-7 and the Vikings were 9-1. Al Woodall and the Jets prevailed over QBs Gary Cuozzo, Bob Lee and the Vikes, 20-10.

■ In 1980, also at Shea, Richard Todd and the Jets (2-9) took a 21-0 lead into the fourth quarter, then weathered a Ken Stabler-led comeback by Houston (8-3) to prevail over the Oilers, 31-28 in overtime.

■ The Jets (3-9) were heavy of heart in 1992 when they went to Buffalo to play the Bills (9-3) one week after Dennis Byrd suffered a paralyzing injury against Kansas City. But the Jets, with Browning Nagle under center and S Brian Washington scoring the late, clinching pick-six, rose up for the 24-17 over Jim Kelly & Co.

■ Coming back from their bye week at 1-8, the Jets and QB Kellen Clemens figured to be easy pickin's for Ben Roethlisberger and the 7-2 Steelers. Instead, the Jets prevailed in OT, 19-16.

Another underdog win, in the sun at MetLife over a staunch division rival, would be a welcome change for the better for the 2020 Jets.

Today's five-player inactive list:

QB James Morgan TE Ross Travis G Alex Lewis T Chuma Edoga T George Fant

And the Dolphins also have a five-man inactive list:

QB Tua Tagovailoa RB Salvon Ahmed FB Chandler Cox G Solomon Kindley DT Benito Jones

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