Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (R) said he contacted Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Waddle during the 2021 NFL season to exchange tips about opposing teams. File Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI | License Photo
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla., Aug. 26 (UPI) — Many players would hold a grudge after losing their starting quarterback job to a college teammate, but Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa forged a stronger bond and still lean on each other for advice in the NFL.
Hurts’ Philadelphia Eagles are in Miami Gardens, Fla., this week for joint practice sessions with Tagovailoa’s Miami Dolphins. Four years ago, Alabama coach Nick Saban made the call to bench Hurts in the national title game. Tagovailoa came in and rallied the Crimson Tide past Georgia for the title. Hurts transferred to Oklahoma.
Instead of sulking, Hurts overcame that adversity and later became a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Tagovailoa joined the Dolphins as the No. 5 overall pick in the same draft. The quarterbacks say they don’t spend time together over the off-season, but keep in touch through text messages.
“The friendship that we’ve had and being able to talk about who we are seeing in the league is just [about] being a companion throughout the process,” Hurts said Thursday at Baptist Health Training Complex.
“I want to see him win and he wants to see me win.”
Tagovailoa and Hurts also talk about their families and other relationships. But when the young quarterbacks talk football, they get specific. Hurts gave Tagovailoa tips last season before the Dolphins faced the New Orleans Saints, a team the Eagles played a month before the Dolphins.
The Eagles and Dolphins each picked up victories in those games.
“I texted him about that,” Tagovailoa said. “He gave me some tips. He texted me about playing another team. I gave him some tips. You know, just things like that. So I think that that was cool.”
Hurts said he asked Tagovailoa for helpful information about the Atlanta Falcons, with whom Dolphins held joint practices with last year. The Dolphins also faced the Falcons last preseason, before the Eagles played faced the same team to start their 2021 season.
Hurts said his conversations with Tagovailoa include details about schemes and specific defenders teams use in certain situations. He said the advice is “all to help a friend.”
Tagovailoa and Hurts were surrounded by several former Alabama teammates at practices Wednesday and Thursday, including wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.
Smith said he is confident in both quarterbacks’ development. They are entering the third year of their rookie contracts, and a strong season could lead to lucrative second NFL contract.
“The things they were doing in college have transitioned here,” Smith said. “Seeing them do the great things they are doing and taking the next step has been amazing.”
Hurts totaled 3,144 passing yards, 16 touchdown tosses and nine interceptions in 15 starts last season. His 784 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns helped the Eagles become the NFL’s top rushing offense, but he received just the 20th-best passer rating from Pro Football Focus.
Tagovailoa overcame injuries and being benched since he turned pro. He totaled 2,653 yards, 16 touchdowns and 10 scores in 13 games last season, and received the 22nd-best passer rating from Pro Football Focus.
The Eagles and Dolphins hired new coaches since they drafted the quarterbacks. They also each added offensive weapons this off-season, which should help Tagovailoa and Hurts take a positive leap.
Several Eagles players said this week that that they expect Hurts to be the most improved player this season. Dolphins players and coaches also have expressed confidence in Tagovailoa entering this season.
The Eagles will battle the Dolphins in their preseason finale at 7 p.m. EDT Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.