Skylar Thompson in, Tua Tagovailoa out vs Bills: What to know about Miami QB situation

ORCHARD PARK - Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel made the somewhat surprising announcement Wednesday afternoon that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will not play in Sunday’s wild-card game against the Buffalo Bills.

During his press conference with Miami reporters before the Dolphins took the field for practice, McDaniel said Tagovailoa - who has missed the last two games, plus two others earlier in the season - had not yet cleared the NFL’s concussion protocol so the decision was cut and dry.

“As of today, Tua has not been cleared by doctors to resume football activities on the field with his teammates, so because of that, and because of the time that he’s missed, I can rule him out for Sunday,” McDaniel said. “We will be approaching the game today as if Skylar Thompson is our starting quarterback.”

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Bills Matt Milano gets the sack of Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa .
Bills Matt Milano gets the sack of Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa .

That is quite a development for the Dolphins who were hoping that, after sitting out two weeks, Tagovailoa may have had a chance to get back on the field for their first playoff game since 2016.

However, given that he has two documented concussions - and probably had a third because in the first game against Buffalo in September, it certainly looked like he suffered one when he was slammed to the ground by Matt Milano - this was obviously the prudent decision for the player’s safety.

Who will start at QB for the Dolphins in playoff game vs Bills?

The reason that Thompson will likely get the start is because Tagovailoa’s primary backup, veteran Teddy Bridgewater, suffered a broken pinkie on his throwing hand in the Dolphins’ Week 17 loss at New England and his status remains up in the air.

“Teddy is still working his way back,” McDaniel said. “His biggest thing is he knew that he had to be in a position where he had to be fully functional on Sunday. That took some strain and really just some guts and work ethic to … that’s not an easy thing to do.

“As it stands right now, he’s working to prepare himself to be capable on Sunday. As a result of that, he can’t afford any setbacks or really anything that’s conflicting against the healing process in the week.”

Bills coach Sean McDermott said that he was made aware of the Tagovailoa decision just before he met with reporters around noon Wednesday, and from the Buffalo end of things, knowing who will probably be playing quarterback will help in their game-planning.

“We control what we can control and again, we’re just focused on making sure that we’re putting in the work,” McDermott said. “Knowing obviously gives us some clarity on who’s going to be back there.”

Thompson is a seventh-round rookie who started the Dolphins season finale against the Jets, though he did very little in Miami’s 11-6 victory. He has now appeared in seven games with two starts. His first start came in Week 6 at home against Minnesota, a 13-7 loss during which he completed only seven of 13 passes for 89 yards.

For the season, he has completed 57.1% of his passes with one touchdown and three interceptions.

“I think the tape that I’ve seen, I think he looks good, he really does,” McDermott said. “They’ve done a good job with him and he seems to have good command of the offense and does a good job back there. We just got to prepare ourselves and get ourselves ready to go here.”

Clearly, though, the Dolphins have an incredibly difficult challenge now, playing the 13-3 Bills in Orchard Park with such an inexperienced quarterback.

“Whenever you have a new player in a position, it’s always challenging to a certain extent, but he’s played,” McDermott said. “He’s played earlier in the year and of late again. You go through those things, we’ve gone through it a lot this year with a lot of injuries and so you make the most of it.”

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This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Tua Tagovailoa out, Skylar Thompson in, for playoff game vs Bills