Ready for a rookie showdown? Justin Herbert vs. Tua Tagovailoa set for Sunday

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa passes against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

They began the season as backups but will spend Sunday as budding rivals.

Rookies Justin Herbert of the Chargers and Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins are scheduled to meet as professionals for the first time, at Hard Rock Stadium in South Florida.

They were drafted a spot apart in April, the connection that will forever link the two quarterbacks.

The Chargers took Herbert with the No. 6 pick immediately after the Dolphins grabbed Tagovailoa.

Chargers tight end Donald Parham Jr. can’t hang on to a potential touchdown pass on the final play as the Chargers lose to the Raiders, 31-26.

Miami’s decision-makers will have a firsthand look at the quarterback they drafted versus the one they opted not to draft.

The first quarterback selected in the spring was Joe Burrow, at No. 1 by Cincinnati. Burrow has been the Bengals’ starter all season.


Herbert took over for veteran Tyrod Taylor in Week 2 after Taylor suffered a punctured lung in a pregame medical accident.

He quickly established himself as one of the NFL’s top rookies and, in a 31-26 loss to Las Vegas, had his fourth 300-yard passing game.

Tagovailoa also spent time behind a veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick, before moving into the starting lineup after Miami’s week off.

Justin Herbert is a franchise quarterback for the Chargers, but amid a season of constant struggle, the team isn’t doing enough to protect the rookie.

Following an underwhelming debut against the Rams, Tagovailoa starred in his second start in the Dolphins’ 34-31 win at Arizona.

He completed 20 of 28 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran seven times for 35 yards, Miami scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter to erase a touchdown deficit.

This matchup almost didn’t happen. The Chargers were originally scheduled to play at Miami on Oct. 25, but the game was moved when the Chargers’ schedule had to be shuffled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the initial schedule, the Chargers would have visited before the Dolphins’ week off. There’s a belief that Miami’s plan all along was to switch to Tagovailoa during the week off, meaning Fitzpatrick would have still been starting Oct. 25.