What further tests showed about Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa’s rib injury

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Dolphins coach Brian Flores said Monday that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is “day-to-day” and “still in a good deal of pain” after leaving the team’s 35-0 home loss to the Buffalo Bills with a rib injury.

Further tests on Tagovailoa’s ribs showed no major structural damage, NFL Network reported Monday.

According to the report, X-rays were negative and Tagovailoa’s availability for the Dolphins’ Week 3 road game against the Las Vegas Raiders will come down to “pain tolerance and functionality.”

“He’s a tough kid,” Flores said on a Zoom call. “I’d say he’s a very tough kid. Just coming back from the hip [injury at Alabama], he got a thumb [injury] last year he really played through. He tried to go yesterday. Toughness isn’t something that I would question with him. He’s going to do everything he can to get back as soon as he can. I have a lot of confidence in that.”

Tagovailoa sustained the injury Sunday after absorbing a hit from defensive end A.J. Epenesa, who sped past right tackle Jesse Davis on the second possession of the game. Tagovailoa, who finished 1 for 4 with 13 yards, was carted to the locker room and did not return.

Flores said the team would look into Tagovailoa wearing a flak jacket, a piece of protective equipment that adds padding to the abdomen area.

“I think sometimes it’s a personal preference for guys who have dealt with some rib-type injuries,” Flores said. “Some guys just like to wear them for extra protection. I think that’s definitely something we’ll look into.”

Jacoby Brissett entered the game for Tagovailoa, who was sacked twice, and faced similar duress throughout the afternoon. Brissett completed 24 of 40 passes for 169 yards, one interception and was sacked four times.

When asked if he would consider changes, external or internal, to the offensive line, Flores answered, “Yes, we’ll take a look at personnel and see if we need to make any changes to play better than we did yesterday.”

One possible change could be inserting rookie Liam Eichenberg at left tackle or right tackle. Eichenberg started Week 1 against the New England Patriots after Austin Jackson missed a week of practice while on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Eichenberg also played right tackle in the second half after Davis exited with a knee injury.

According to Pro Football Focus, Jackson gave up a team-high nine pressures against the Bills.

“He’s got to play better,” Flores said of Jackson. “I can’t put it any plainer or simpler. He’s got to play better and he’s not alone.

“Specific to the [offensive line],” Flores added, “I think it was communication, it was fundamentals and techniques that were an issue, and we’ve got to play a lot better on the offensive line and really across the board offensively and as a team. ... There were some missed [identification] and miscommunication on the offensive line between the center [and] the quarterback. We have to get that better. We have to get that right. We have to get that corrected.”

Flores said the struggles of the offensive line, which also allowed two sacks to the Patriots, wouldn’t factor into whether the team decides to sit or play Tagovailoa against the Raiders.

“I think we go into every game thinking we’re going to get the quarterback protected. That’s always the plan,” Flores said. “Obviously, we didn’t do that yesterday. So, we’ll make some adjustments to make sure that gets done. ... If Tua can go, he’s going to go, and that’s just the kind of kid he is.”

If Tagovailoa is unable to play against the Raiders, Brissett would likely be the starter with Reid Sinnett, who is currently on the practice squad, serving as the backup. In this case, the Dolphins would have to elevate or sign Sinnett from the practice squad to the active roster. Under NFL rules, practice squad players can be elevated to the active roster twice and revert to the practice squad without having to first clear waivers.