AFC Notes: Dolphins, Jets, Patriots

     

Dolphins

Dolphins first-round QB Tua Tagovailoa hit a speed bump in what has otherwise been a strong debut since taking over as the starter. After an ineffectual start to the game Sunday against the Broncos, HC Brian Flores benched Tagovailoa for veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to try and spark a win. Flores said the benching was just for Sunday and the rookie remains the starter. Tagovailoa appears to have taken it in stride as well, even though it didn’t lead to a win. 

“My thoughts were whatever was going to be best for the team,” Tagovailoa said via Pro Football Talk. “When I was in, we couldn’t really get things going and Coach felt like it was the best decision to put Fitz in to give us a spark. When I heard that — it’s really what’s best for the team. If we were to win with Fitz in there, the locker room would be a lot different and everyone would be a lot happier. It just sucks to lose.”

  • Flores reasserted that the benching does not indicate any kind of doubt about Tagovailoa’s long-term status with the team: “He’s clearly a very talented player. He’s young, improving and a developing player. We have a lot of confidence in him. That’s why he’s the starter.” (Josh Tolentino)
  • Added Flores: “Tua is a resilient kid. He’s got my full support. He’s got support from every player in that locker room. I don’t know if there’s a message here. He’s played well, and I expect him to bounce back.” (Tolentino)

Jets

On paper, the Jets missed possibly their best chance to avoid a winless season by dropping Sunday’s matchup against the previously 2-7 Chargers by a score of 34-28. Their next five games are all against teams with at least six wins before they finish in Week 17 against the 4-6 Patriots who beat them on a late field goal a couple of weeks ago.

Although New York was officially eliminated from playoff contention Sunday, the motivation to avoid the stain of 0-16 will still be a highly motivating factor for the Jets the rest of the way, particularly RB Frank Gore.

“You don’t want to go 0-16,” Gore said via the Associated Press’ Dan Greenspan. “This could be my last year. I can’t go out like that.”

  • The broadcast appeared to show Jets HC Adam Gase calling plays Sunday after he’d delegated that power to OC Dowell Loggains a few weeks back. But Gase explained Loggains is giving him the play calls and he’s relaying them to the quarterback: “I’ve been sending them in the last three weeks. I help on some of the third-down stuff and the two-minute stuff. It’s easier when I get involved in the two-minute stuff to already have the communication just because it goes quicker.” (Brian Costello)
  • Gase told reporters QB Sam Darnold‘s status with his shoulder injury is still unclear: “We’ll see how the next couple of days go and see how he is on Wednesday. … It’ll be more about how his pain tolerance is.” (Ralph Vacchiano)
  • Darnold said making sure he can respond well to contact is the biggest remaining obstacle: “I think for me it’s taking it one day at a time still. The shoulder feels good throwing. It’s really at this point about getting hit and how it’s going to respond to that.” (Vacchiano)
  • He added he does think he’s getting closer to a return: “I’m nearing that point to where I have a little bit more confidence in my shoulder to be able to withstand a hit. That’s a good thing.” (Vacchiano)
  • However, the consequences of returning too soon are severe: “If it does get hurt again, the worst-case scenario is another 2-3 weeks.”
  • Jets OT George Fant sprained both his knee and ankle. (Costello)
  • Jets fourth-round RB La’Mical Perine will be out for several weeks with a high ankle sprain. (Manish Mehta)

Patriots

Patriots QB Cam Newton signed a one-year deal in New England this summer with the goal of proving he was still one of the league’s best quarterbacks and reviving his career. As he comes to the end of that contract with mixed results, Newton was asked in a radio interview with WEEI if he was interested in staying with the Patriots longer. 

“Man, I have interest in winning the Arizona Cardinals game [this week],” Newton said. “How about that? . . . There are so many things that — I don’t want to even harp, dwell, or even think — as the Bible says, my cup runneth over. Just trying to focus on the near future rather than the far future.”

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