Tua Tagovailoa vs. Jalen Hurts: Who won the battle of ‘Bama at Eagles-Dolphins joint practices?

It felt like Alabama alumni day when the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles practiced together Wednesday, with Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts under center.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts have spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours together on the practice field together during their long relationship. But never quite like this. Hurts’ Philadelphia Eagles and Tagovailoa’s Miami Dolphins are gathered here this week for joint training camp practices, reuniting the former Alabama teammates ahead of Saturday’s preseason game.

Who had the best practice, Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts?

Just like when they were together at Alabama in 2017 and 2018, both performed well Wednesday.

And just like much of the time when they were together in Tuscaloosa, Tagovailoa performed better.

Tua took Jalen’s job ahead of the 2018 college football season, eventually leading to Hurts’ decision to transfer to Oklahoma. Almost four years to the day after Nick Saban picked Tagovailoa over Hurts to start for the Crimson Tide, Tua again had the upper hand.

Tagovailoa completed 14 of his 20 passing attempts for 155 yards with no interceptions or touchdowns in team drills against the Eagles’ defense (which gave him a passer rating of 92.7).

Hurts, meanwhile, had a higher completion percentage (78.9%) but a substantially lower yards-per-attempt average (5.8). His passer rating (90.8) was also a tick below.

But beyond the stats, Tagovailoa was the more dangerous quarterback. He looked to stretch the field in ways Hurts did not Wednesday, connecting with Tyreek Hill on three passes of 20 or more yards. Hurts, meanwhile, was a checkdown passer for much of Wednesday’s two-hour session.

Hurts has been super cautious with the football this summer. He hasn’t thrown an interception in dozens of attempts — a streak that continued Wednesday.

“He’s done a hell of a job making the right decisions, especially in practice, going through his reads, going through his progressions very nicely,” said Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. “Then when he’s had a chance to make a big play out of the pocket, he’ll take it. If not, he’s doing a good job of throwing the ball away when he needs to.”

To be fair to Hurts, we didn’t see his full potential Wednesday. He is one of the league’s best dual-threat quarterbacks, but he did no real running during practice. That will change once the games start counting.

Tagovailoa on his relationship with Hurts

But Tua has been the better pocket passer since the day he arrived on campus in 2017 as a heralded freshman. That’s carried over to the NFL as well. He has a higher career completion (66.2% to 59%), a better touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.8:1 vs. 1.7:1), and a superior passer rating (88.8 to 84.7) than Hurts.

Still, any rivalry between the two players is a friendly one — which is a testament to both players. Hurts could have very easily been salty after losing his job to a younger teammate. But all these years later, he’s still willing and eager to help his former understudy. Tagovailoa picked Hurts’ brain about a common opponent last fall.

“We don’t spend time together offseason, but we text each other,” Tagovailoa said. “Really just checking in. I remember last season texting each other quite a large amount. For me, when I was playing the Saints, he played the Saints prior. I texted him about that. He gave me some tips. He texted me about playing some other teams. I gave him some tips.

“Just things like that,” he added. “I think that was cool. I know our relationship with me and Jalen is not going to go anywhere. My relationship with me and Mac is not going to go anywhere, regardless of how many times we talk throughout the year, throughout the week, or if we don’t.”

The two young quarterbacks had a brief chance to catch up during Wednesday’s practice.

“The dude’s a hard worker,” Tagovailoa added. “In the weight room, the classroom, and then on the field. Dude had to be the first into the weight room, he had to be the first out onto the field. Sprints, he had to be first. It really tells you about how he goes about his life. It tells you about how he sees things, looks at everything. Obviously he’s a competitor. Never wants to be last. That should tell you a lot about him.”

More observations from Dolphins-Eagles practice

  • Hill’s impact on the opposition goes beyond the box score. His speed can hurt — both literally and figuratively. He so badly burned Eagles corner Darius Slay deep on the first 1-on-1 rep Wednesday that Slay pulled up lame with what looked to be a tweaked hamstring and wasn’t able to finish practice.
  • The Dolphins have their own health issues at corner. Keion Crossen didn’t practice after he got hurt in the preseason game against the Raiders, and Xavien Howard did nothing beyond individual and 1-on-1 drills. Byron Jones (Achilles) remains on the physically unable to perform list.
  • It’s been two weeks since Jaylen Waddle last practiced. He warmed up with his teammates Wednesday, then watched the rest of the session from the sidelines, his entire right leg protected by an athletic sleeve.
  • Eagles players who did not practice Wednesday: Jack Anderson (ribs); Shaun Bradley (illness); Christian Ellis (hamstring); Javon Hargrave (toe); Josh Jobe (elbow); Jason Kelce (elbow); Miles Sanders (hamstring); Josiah Scott (hamstring); and Greg Ward (toe).
  • Hurts and Tagovailoa are two of a combined six former Alabama players on the Dolphins and Eagles’ rosters. The others: Waddle; defensive tackle Raekwon Davis; receiver DeVonta Smith; and guard Landon Dickerson.

Adam Beasley is the NFL Director for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.

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