Tua update and Dolphins player goes on COVID list. And McShay’s draft advice for Dolphins

Barry Jackson

A six-pack of Miami Dolphins notes on a Friday:

Dolphins coach Brian Flores on Friday was noncommittal about whether quarterback Tua Tagovailoa would miss a second consecutive game Sunday because of a troublesome thumb injury on his left (throwing) hand.

Flores said he wasn’t sure if Tagovailoa will play Sunday against Cincinnati at Hard Rock Stadium. The rookie was listed as questionable for the game.

Flores, who spoke to reporters shortly after 1:30 p.m on Friday, said he would make a decision by mid-afternoon on Friday but implied the team would keep that decision private before Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff.

Tagovailoa was limited in practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week after not playing last Sunday against the Jets. That means Tagovailoa hasn’t been able to partake in an entire practice in more than a week. Ryan Fitzpatrick would again start if Tagovailoa cannot.

“Any time you have an issue on the hand there’s some impact,” Flores said of Tagovailoa’s thumb, which was reportedly swollen and weak, at least last weekend. “That’s part of the evaluation. We’ve gone through it throughout the entire week. Both quarterbacks have practiced. We’ll make a decision pretty soon.”

Meanwhile, the Dolphins could be without three of their five running backs Sunday.

Matt Breida was placed on the COVID-19 list on Friday and might have the virus, because Brian Flores said he has an “illness.”

DeAndre Washington (hamstring) and Salvon Ahmed (shoulder) are doubtful.

Those three issues make it more likely that Myles Gaskin, who has missed four games with a sprained MCL, will be removed from injured reserve by 4 p.m. Saturday and play Sunday, though Flores was noncommittal about that on Friday.

Besides fullback Chandler Cox, Patrick Laird is the only other running back on the roster, though receivers and former college quarterbacks Lynn Bowden and Malcolm Perry could play running back if needed. But Perry is questionable with a chest injury and was limited in practice all week.

There are no running backs on Miami’s practice squad.

Guard Solomon Kindley, who missed last Sunday’s game with a foot injury, is questionable but Flores said that Kindley is “trending in the right direction.” He was limited in practice all week.

What should the Dolphins do with their two first-round picks in April’s NFL Draft?

Those picks now stand 11th (Houston’s first-round pick that is owed to Miami from the Laremy Tunsil trade) and 22nd (Miami’s first-rounder).

ESPN’s Todd McShay — in an ESPN.com piece with Mel Kiper Jr. — answered this way:

“Wide receiver is the big need. [LSU’s] Ja’Marr Chase, my top-ranked receiver at the moment, is a possibility, but Tua’s former Alabama teammates DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle would also be great picks, as would Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman.

“Tua Tagovailoa is at his best when the offense spreads it out with three or four receivers, letting him distribute the ball. Then, offensive line, safety and cover linebacker would be in play with the other first-round selection.”

The Dolphins hope they don’t need to invest another high pick in an offensive linemen after drafting three this past April. Safety also has been a position of strength this season, with Bobby McCain and Eric Rowe, who are both under contract next season.

Running back assuredly will be addressed in the first two to four rounds; McShay said he sees Clemson’s Travis Etienne as the only running back to go in the first round (in the back end) and Alabama’s Najee Harris and Oklahoma State’s Chubba Hubbard going in the second round.

Is there a clear-cut top receiver?

“Three receivers in this class are going to get elite grades from me,” Kiper said.

“Smith and Chase are 1A and 1B. They can beat cornerbacks in so many ways, and they’re tremendous after the catch. They don’t have weaknesses. Smith is so smooth as a route runner and is stellar after the catch. He is a special player. I also really like Waddle, a speedster who is out for the season after suffering an ankle injury in October. If he drops to the 20s, some team is going to get a steal.”

Couple other points from the Kiper/McShay piece: They say the best non-quarterbacks in the draft are Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell and Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons. If Miami’s pick from Houston remains where it is now — No. 11 — it’s unlikely either player would be available to the Dolphins.

Kiper believes four quarterbacks could go in the top 15 — Trevor Lawrence No. 1, Justin Fields possibly No. 2 and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and BYU’s Zach Wilson in some order. That’s significant in case Houston’s pick is at a spot where the Dolphins could trade down a couple spots with a quarterback-needy team that covets Lance or Wilson.

Kiper said he could see Alabama’s Mac Jones possibly going in the 20s, and sees UF’s Kyle Trask right behind Jones.

Here’s the rest of their piece in which they answer 30 questions.

Quick stuff Part 1: Not only does Mike Gesicki have eight touchdown receptions in his past 17 games, but his 15.0 yards per reception average this season is best in the league for tight ends.

There have been seven times in the past five years that an NFL tight end averaged at least 15 yards per catch during a season. Jared Cook did it last season (16.4) for New Orleans. Rob Gronkowski has done it twice since 2015….

The Dolphins are allowing teams to convert just 32.8 percent of third downs, which is best in the league from a defensive standpoint.

Quick stuff Part 2: The Dolphins’ streak of 17 games in a row with a takeaway is the longest active streak in the NFL and Miami’s longest since 2000-2001…

Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders is 12 of 14 (85.7 percent) from 50-plus yards in his career and has made 10 in a row from that distance. His 85.7 field-goal percentage from 50-plus is the best in the NFL since at least 1991. No other NFL kicker is better than 80 percent in his career from 50 plus, with a minimum of 10 attempts.

“I’m excited to see where it’s going to go,” Sanders said of his career.

I would fully expect the Dolphins to offer Fitzpatrick a contract to return as their backup quarterback; whether he’s interested remains to be seen. He was noncommittal when I asked him last month.

“It’s been great working with him I would say these last two years,” Flores told Cincinnati media this week. “He’s been a great mentor to Tua Tagovailoa and a lot of other young players. It’s one thing as a coach to try to teach these young guys and mentor them and teach them how to be a pro; it’s another thing when you have a guy like Ryan in the locker room, in the huddle with them, really saying a lot of the same things. He’s been a very, very valuable piece to the growth of some of our young players, I would say.”

Receivers coach Josh Grizzard said coaching young players Malcolm Perry, Lynn Bowden Jr. and Antonio Callaway has been “fun because they are so young. They are just like ‘Can we watch more film? Can we still spend some time at night?’

“In this climate we’re in with Zoom, you can get on a call with these guys and watch the tape even when you’re sitting at home. Those guys are all eager to learn, not only the playbook, but taking it to the next level on their understanding of not only our scheme but what the defense is trying to do.”