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NFL NOTEBOOK

Dolphins eager to see what Tua Tagovailoa can do in starting debut

Tagovailoa threw 87 touchdown passes at Alabama, but his professional resume entering Sunday's debut start shows two modest completions for 9 yards, both in mop-up duty.
Tagovailoa threw 87 touchdown passes at Alabama, but his professional resume entering Sunday's debut start shows two modest completions for 9 yards, both in mop-up duty.Doug Murray/Associated Press

Tua Tagovailoa’s days as a student were recent enough that he remembers how to cram for a test, which is what he has been doing lately.

Newly promoted to the starting job with the Miami Dolphins, Tagovailoa didn’t spend last weekend celebrating even though the team had a bye.

“I was here a lot,” he said at the team complex Wednesday. “I spent a lot of my time here just watching some film, but also working out. I got with some of the guys as well so we could work on some timing with certain routes.”

The test comes Sunday when Miami (3-3) plays host to the Los Angeles Rams (5-2). It will be Tagovailoa’s first start since a serious hip injury ended his Alabama career nearly a year ago, and it’s perhaps the Dolphins' most anticipated coming-out party since celebrity coach Nick Saban began his two-year stint with Miami in 2005.

Even so, Tagovailoa said, his world remains even-keeled.

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“What helps for me is my family’s not too big on the hype and whatnot,” he said. "It’s more so just being a good son for them. A lot of times when I come home or talk to my parents, they don’t really necessarily want to know how football went; they want to know how everything is with me as a person.

“What also helps me are the coaches and my teammates. You get joked on and whatnot. I don’t think anyone here in this organization can get too caught up in any of the hype.”

While the rookie’s profile in practice has changed, his demeanor hasn’t, coach Brian Flores said.

“When you’re in there as the No. 1 guy, you assume a little bit bigger role,” Flores said. “That’s just natural to the position, and I think everyone knows that. He’s just being himself.”

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Teammates have embraced the 22-year-old, even though he’s replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick, a popular 16-year veteran demoted despite back-to-back lopsided wins. Tagovailoa has worked hard to build bonds with teammates, even spending time grilling defensive players and assistant coaches regarding how he can improve.

“He has been a strong leader since he got in the building in July,” center Ted Karras said. “It’s going to be an exciting weekend."

DE Carlos Dunlap dealt to Seattle

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap made it clear he wanted out of Cincinnati and got his wish. The Seattle Seahawks, last in the league in yards allowed and passing yards allowed, acquired the 2015 and 2016 Pro Bowler, who had had 46 sacks between 2015-19.

“It’s critical to develop your rush so it can complement with the rest of your game to get on the edge and force it and break down the pocket. ... It’s huge," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said, speaking generally despite Cincinnati announcing the deal. “That’s nothing new, nothing that we haven’t talked about forever. That element is just a built-in need.”

Carlos Dunlap is headed from Cincinnati to Seattle.
Carlos Dunlap is headed from Cincinnati to Seattle.Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Seattle sent backup offensive lineman B.J. Finney and a seventh-round draft pick to the Bengals in compensation. Dunlap’s contract goes through the 2021 season.

This season, Dunlap has started four games and had one sack and 18 tackles. He’ll finish his career in Cincinnati one sack shy of tying the franchise’s all-time mark. The 31-year-old was so thoroughly unhappy with his situation there, he briefly put his house for sale on social media last weekend.

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Seattle has just nine sacks through six games. The Seahawks didn’t record a QB hit on Arizona’s Kyler Murray in last Sunday’s 37-34 overtime loss.

Staying cautious, Browns rest Myles Garrett

Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett, the NFL’s sacks leader, didn’t practice because of an ankle injury. Coach Kevin Stefanski gave few details about the condition of Garrett, who had two sacks in Sunday’s win over Cincinnati.

Garrett has nine sacks this season and has been a disruptive force in helping the Browns (5-2) to their best start since they opened 1994 at 6-1. He has a sack in six straight games and has four strip-sacks, three of which have been game-swinging plays.

Stefanski said he expects Garrett to practice later this week, but stressed the team will “gather more information” on the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2017′s injury.

Also, Browns tight end Austin Hooper is likely to miss his second game in a row Sunday against Las Vegas after undergoing an appendectomy last week.

Chicago’s Allen Robinson in concussion protocol

Top Chicago playmaker Allen Robinson is in the NFL’s concussion protocol, throwing the star receiver’s status for this week’s game against the New Orleans Saints into question.

Robinson’s face hit the field Monday when he was tackled on a helmet-to-helmet play by safety Nick Scott on a fourth-down catch with about four minutes left in the lopsided loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night. Chicago (5-2) not having Robinson available to face the surging Saints (4-2) — winners of three straight — and their top 10 defense on Sunday would be a big blow for an offense that ranks among the NFL’s worst.

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Allen Robinson is being monitored because of concussion issues.
Allen Robinson is being monitored because of concussion issues.Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

The Bears rank 29th in yards per game and 27th in scoring (19.7 points). Besides Robinson, they could also be without center Cody Whitehair after he left Monday’s game with a calf injury.

Positive COVID-19 test closes Houston facility

⋅ The Houston Texans closed their facility after a player — believed to be guard Max Scharping, who was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list — tested positive for the novel coronavirus. With the Texans on their bye week, players were off Wednesday other than undergoing their daily coronavirus testing.

The positive test result was received late Tuesday night and the player isolated while the team and the league performed contact tracing, the Texans said in a written statement. The team’s facility was undergoing a “deep cleaning.”

The Texans faced the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Division-leading Green Bay (5-1) hosts the Vikings (1-5) on Sunday.

⋅ The New York Jets' struggling offense will again be in Dowell Loggains' hands this week. Coach Adam Gase announced his offensive coordinator will call plays for the second straight game after Loggains oversaw the offense in an 18-10 loss last Sunday to Buffalo.

The Jets got off to a promising start under Loggains against the Bills, scoring 10 points on their first three possessions, but put up just 4 total yards in the second half in dropping to 0-7. They face the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs at Kansas City on Sunday, where they opened a 20-point underdog.

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⋅ Newly acquired defensive end Everson Griffen will not be available to practice or play for Detroit until next week due to NFL’s COVID-19 protocols. The Lions acquired Griffen from the Dallas Cowboys for a conditional 2021 draft pick on Tuesday night, but NFL protocols require players who join a new team to begin testing for six days before they can enter the franchise’s facilities. Detroit (3-3) will thus be without the 32-year-old, who has 77 career sacks, when it hosts the Indianapolis Colts (4-2) on Sunday.

Everson Griffen will have to wait a bit to make his debut with Detroit.
Everson Griffen will have to wait a bit to make his debut with Detroit.Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

⋅ Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer confirmed defensive end Danielle Hunter, a two-time Pro Bowl pick at age 25, had an operation Tuesday that went as planned to repair a herniated disk in his neck. Zimmer said he didn’t have an exact timetable on Hunter’s return, “but he should be back and playing football again.”

Hunter was hurt in practice at the beginning of training camp, vaguely described then by Zimmer as a “tweak.” That’s because, the coach said Wednesday, Hunter merely “woke up and thought he slept on his neck wrong.” When the discomfort didn’t subside, a subsequent MRI surprisingly revealed the more serious injury.

Running back Dalvin Cook (groin) was a limited participant in practice, after missing the game before the bye.

⋅ Defensive end Takk McKinley has been ruled out of Atlanta’s game at Carolina on Thursday night with a groin injury, the fourth game in the past six weeks McKinley has been held out. The first-round draft pick in 2017 had one tackle in last week’s 23-22 loss to Detroit, but has not practiced this week.