Quarterback Derek Carr participated in full at the Raiders Wednesday practice. He was replaced last week by Marcus Mariota after a groin injury in the first quarter of the team's overtime loss to the Chargers.
Wednesday, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was asked about his relationship with Mariota. Five years apart, Mariota and Tagovailoa were products of the same high school in Honolulu, Hawaii, St. Louis High School.
"He was a big role model for a lot of us kids back home; but I think fourth grade when I first met him at a football camp, man, (he was) just a humble guy, a hard worker. He was one of the guys who kind of took me under his wing, so to say, when we went to passing camps at our alma mater, at Saint Louis in Hawaii," Tagovailoa said. "And I went and threw with the high schoolers at fourth grade. Everyone was wondering, 'why are you throwing with us, you're a fourth grader.' Marcus kind of took me under his wing, so to say. I guess from there, I just really looked up to him and he's just really been the same person."
Entering the Week 15 game against the Patriots, Tagovailoa had the NFL's best touchdown-to-interception ratio (9-1) through the first six starts of a career in the Super Bowl era.
Trailing 9-7 in the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa faced the same obstacle – third-and-goal from the 3-yard-line. As they did on the interception, New England brought a blitz. This time, Tagovailoa evaded the rush, tucked the ball and ran for what would be the game-deciding touchdown.
"They were different looks but in a way similar," Tagovailoa said. "The interception was really rookie-esque, if you will. I could've just took the sack. We had points there whether it was a touchdown or field goal…I would say I definitely learned from that. I don't want to force anything and if I could've made it with my legs then, that was kind of the thing. And if not we still would've had points, we could've kicked the field goal."
Whether it's Carr or Mariota for the Raiders, tight end Darren Waller presents a challenge to the Dolphins defense. Eric Rowe has primarily covered tight ends since he made the switch from cornerback to safety early in the 2019 season and figures to draw the Waller assignment on a regular basis Saturday night.
"Waller, he is definitely a different breed," Rowe said. "He's not really a tight end. He's basically a receiver – a big receiver. He's explosive, he can run. I see cornerbacks and safeties covering him and he's beating them. It's definitely going to be a huge challenge this week."
"They use him in 13, 22, 21 (personnel) and usually when you get big people personnel like that, most teams put more linebackers out there to cover tight ends of some sort," he continued. "That's just a huge mismatch for him, and that's what they want. When you have a guy like that, you can just open up the whole playbook."
Waller is one of a bevy of options the Raiders offense features. Running back Josh Jacobs' 902 rushing yards are sixth-most in the NFL and the average weight of 339 pounds along the offensive line – highlighted by the 380-pound Trent Brown – is the heaviest line in the NFL.
"I mean they're well coached and they're talented," Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores said. "I think that in itself makes them dangerous. They've won some games against some very good teams – the Chiefs, New Orleans, Cleveland. Those are pretty good teams, some of the top teams in the league. They're well coached. They've played in big games and won big games this year. They've got a lot of good players. We have our work cut out for us."
On top of their personnel, the Raiders pre-snap window dressing is something Miami is focused on this week.
"It's very multiple – a lot of personnel groups, a lot of shifts, a lot of motions, good players, good run game, good pass game," Flores said. "It'll be challenging – very challenging for us. We've got to do a good job really communication-wise, fundamentals, technique and we'll try to limit them; but they've got some explosive players, good backs and quarterbacks – regardless of which one is out there."
The Dolphins are in prime time for the second time this season. The Saturday night kickoff can be seen on NFL Network with a broadcast crew of Joe Davis, Kurt Warner and Melissa Stark.
A win for Miami creates a 'win-and-in' scenario next week on the road in Buffalo. It would also mark the first double-digit win season for Miami since 2016.
Wednesday Injury Report
Safety Clayton Fejedelem and offensive guard Solomon Kindley did not practice on Wednesday.
Linebacker Jerome Baker and Kyle Van Noy, offensive guard Ereck Flowers, tight end Mike Gesicki, wide receivers Jakeem Grant and DeVante Parker, defensive end Shaq Lawson and safety Bobby McCain were all limited in Wednesday's practice.
Defensive end Clelin Ferrell and linebacker Nicholas Morrow did not practice Wednesday.
Cornerback Damon Arnette, center Rodney Hudson, defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, offensive guard Gabe Jackson and tackle Sam Young were limited participants at Wednesday's Raiders practice.
Click here for the complete Dolphins-Raiders Week 16 injury report.