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Dolphins’ Tua in ‘fun and happy’ place under McDaniel; plus, a key reason for Jalen Ramsey’s swift recovery

PHILADELPHIA — Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa almost seems like a completely different person in a second season under coach Mike McDaniel than he was his first two NFL campaigns with Brian Flores at the helm.

Ahead of Sunday night’s prime-time showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles, Tagovailoa opened up this past week in an interview with NBC about the freedom he’s operating with in McDaniel’s system and how it transcends to happiness on and off the field.

“I would describe the place that I’m at professionally as fun and happy,” Tagovailoa said in the interview. “Fun because I’m able to be myself, and the guys around me are able to be themselves. We’re able to have open dialogue in a manner that’s respectful, and not, ‘You have to be this way as a leader. You have to say these things, as a leader, to your players.’ We’re allowed the freedom in that sense.

“And then just happy. We’re having fun. Happiness comes along with it. I think it’s a testament to everyone in that regard. Everyone’s having fun. The joy that we all bring to each other when things work out the way they’re supposed to, when we work hard, we work together.”

Tagovailoa appeared to be drawing direct comparisons into how it wasn’t nearly that same way under Flores’ direction.

“I don’t have to think of, ‘If I make this throw, these are the consequences of what the coach will do, what might be said to me after I do it,’ ” the quarterback said. “It’s like, ‘Dude, you’re OK. Move on.’ And it’s something Mike has helped train in me, (quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell) has trained in me.”

It’s working for Tagovailoa. Entering Sunday, he led the NFL in passer rating (114.1), passing yards (1,876), yards per attempt (9.5) and was tied for the league lead with 14 passing touchdowns.

Tagovailoa, in his first two professional seasons, was largely guarded publicly, but now, since getting married, having his first child and taking in McDaniel’s guidance, he speaks more openly and proudly about his family and personal life.

“Tua Tagovailoa, as a professional, much more different than Tua Tagovailoa at home, being a dad, being a husband. I think it’s intertwined more since the coming of Mike McDaniel, the freedom that he’s brought to the organization,” he said.

The spotlight on Tagovailoa comes as he takes on the Eagles, with former Alabama teammate Jalen Hurts the quarterback on the other side. Tagovailoa famously supplanted Hurts at halftime of the 2017 national championship game and then as the starter the following season for the Crimson Tide. Hurts transferred to Oklahoma, and they have both, as quarterbacks of the 2020 draft class, found success professionally.

“The thing that was classy about these guys is they always supported each other,” Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN Sunday morning. “They competed against each other, they respected each other, but they supported each other in every game that they played.”

Ramsey’s rapid recovery

A key for Dolphins star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, although out against the Eagles, to return to practice this week within three months of his left knee injury and surgery is the type of tear he had in his meniscus.

This according to an NFL Network report Sunday morning: “While the assumption was that Ramsey had a displaced meniscus tear, which would necessitate a full repair as opposed to a trim, that was not the case. Sources say Ramsey suffered an outer rim meniscal tear, which is dramatically different than a displaced tear and can be repaired via a trim.”

The report said a repair often requires five or six months for recovery. With the injury occurring in the second practice of training camp in late July, that was why an initially reported timeline had him returning in December. McDaniel often said Ramsey was set out to beat the timeline.

While Ramsey didn’t return to game action for the Week 7 game in Philadelphia, it’s possible he can debut with the Dolphins next week against the New England Patriots at home or in the following Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Germany.

Season ticket price hikes

With a better product comes a more expensive product.

Multiple Dolphins season ticket holders used social media this past week to complain about price increases to renew in 2024 that they’ve been notified of recently.

“Did anyone else get an outrageous increase to their Season Ticket Membership Pricing?!” wrote @BeardedPhinatic on X.

The mass inquiry was reposted by Allie Goodman, the reigning Fan of the Year for the Dolphins: “I’m already working OT every week to pay for all this Dolphins stuff. Now my tickets go up by $700!  Ugh cmon @miamidolphins!!”

Dolphins fan Paul Coleman wrote on X: “The Miami dolphins have been my team since the mid 70s. Todays a real sad day. After seeing prices for our season tix go up 2400 dollars after a 1000 dollar increase last year, I have to let our seats go. I can’t justify spending 10000 dollars on seats a year. It’s been a great run.”

According to a team source, some seat packages have increased by different percentages due to higher demand than the past 20 years. Season tickets are sold out, and there is a waiting list.

Seats in higher demand with longer waiting lists are increasing by greater percentages. Less expensive seats are seeing lighter increases as the Dolphins remain committed to maintaining affordable options, according to the source.

Howard, Williams out vs. Eagles

Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard and center Connor Williams missed the team’s game against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

The two key players nursing groin injuries were listed among inactives announced 90 minutes before kickoff.

Howard, the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback, left last Sunday’s win over the Carolina Panthers with his ailment after playing through multiple groin injuries last season.

Miami’s top cornerback, with star Jalen Ramsey still not ready to debut with his new team off a knee procedure in training camp, is Kader Kohou. Cornerbacks who have rotated in nickel and dime packages — Eli Apple, Parry Nickerson and Justin Bethel — were set to see playing time. The Dolphins also have rookie second-round pick Cam Smith.

They have to contain the Eagles receiving corps, which is led by A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.

Williams has now missed three of four games with his own groin injury. Two weeks ago, he played through it against the New York Giants, but has now missed the past two game.

Liam Eichenberg started in Williams’ place at center after playing guard last season.

Other Dolphins inactives were wide receiver Robbie Chosen, cornerback Kelvin Joseph, tight end Tyler Kroft and quarterback Skylar Thompson, who was still available as an emergency third quarterback.

Wide receiver Chase Claypool was active for the first time after he was acquired more than two weeks ago in Miami’s trade with the Chicago Bears.

Eagles inactives were safety Reed Blankenship, cornerback Bradley Roby, running back Rashaad Penny, linebacker Patrick Johnson, defensive tackle Moro Ojomo, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam and quarterback Tanner McKee, who was the emergency third QB.

Fullback Alec Ingold, who entered questionable like Howard and Williams but with a foot injury, was active Sunday.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Chase Claypool (84) warms up before an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Dolphins wide receiver Chase Claypool (84) warms up before Sunday night’s game against the Eagles in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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