Tua Tagovailoa took over the starting role after the Dolphins Week 7 bye, and helped lead the Dolphins to a 6-3 record. He threw for 1,814 YDs, 11 TDs, 5 INTs, and 64.1$ Completion Percentage. Are those crazy numbers that we should be in love with?
No, not by any stretch; however, in a season where he didn’t have a full off-season, Tua was coming off a potential career-ending injury, had a surrounding cast full of guys who could’ve been PS players on other teams, and an OC who called plays like Miami had a child under center, he played beyond adequately.
Just a week after his first start in which he didn’t need to do much because of a stellar defensive and special teams performance, he lost his WR2 Preston Williams to a season-ending foot injury. The supposed WR1, Devante Parker, missed 2 of 9 games when Tua was starting, and was barely healthy for the other 7. His best performance was when he went for 8 catches and 119 yards versus a Jets team assembled to fail. In weeks 15 and 16, his best WR’s were Mack Hollins and Isaiah Ford. Only 10% of Tua’s passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air were dropped.
According to PFF, the Dolphins WR core dropped 14 passes which would have equated to about 25.3 points. In week 17 vs Buffalo in a do-or-die game, there were at least 12 catchable balls dropped, plenty off the hands of Devante Parker.
The WR corps ranks last in the league in creating separation and yards after catch. One pass catcher who solidified himself as top-10 at his position was TE Mike Gesicki, but in today’s league, one good TE is not enough to entirely change an entire offense. Simply put, the WR room did not do enough, and was not built, to help a rookie quarterback coming off a major injury.
Fortunately for Tua and the offense, they’ve added some serious help to the WR room. In free agency, they signed WR Will Fuller V. He brings serious speed and brilliant hands to the receiver room, and everyone knows the latter was necessary. Last season in just 11 games, he was able to put up 880 yards and 8 TD’s. If he can stay healthy for all 16 games (suspended week 1), he can do some serious damage and help make the WR corps really fun to watch.
A little over a month after that, the Dolphins drafted Jaylen Waddle with the 6th pick. Tua and Waddle had a remarkable connection during their time together in Alabama, and combining Waddle with Fuller and Parker should be lethal. Many are comparing Waddle to Tyreek Hill. Preston Williams is still a question mark, although he has shown serious potential over the last two years.
Miami also has Lynn Bowden Jr., Jakeem Grant, Malcom Perry, and Albert Wilson. I’d expect Grant to be cut by September, but the other 3 have the ability to provide crucial depth and speed for this group. If these guys can stay healthy, I’d expect Tua to have a field day throwing the ball to them.
In the RB room, the Dolphins had Matt Breida, Salvon Ahmed, Myles Gaskin, and Patrick Laird. Matt Breida didn’t do anything in a Dolphins uniform to live up to the hype. Patrick Laird was an undrafted free-agent who would get minimal playing time. Ahmed and Gaskin showed signs of potential often busting out for quick 10-15 yard carries and nifty moves, but neither had the experience or true bell cow ability you’d like to give your new franchise QB. To the dismay of many fans, the Fins FO didn’t do much to add to the RB room.
In FA, they signed Malcolm Brown, a 7th year man who spent his first 6 years as a Ram. He’s shown he can play, but was never given a chance to be the true number one guy, but I wouldn’t expect him to be first in line here either. In the 7th-round of the draft, Grier & co. drafted Gerrid Doaks, a power back from Cincinnati. According to many people who followed his career, he’s a heavy power back who runs hard. Adding depth and experience to the RB room should help all of them feed off each other and improve. A better RB group will ultimately help Tua become a better passer.
When OC Chan Gailey was questioned on why the playbook was a lot more diverse with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB, he cited the situations in which Fitzpatrick was brought in. Although that is true to an extent (when he came in, Miami was forced to move the ball down field to have a chance), there was a clear difference in play calling for Tua and Fitzpatrick.
In the week 16 game in Las Vegas, all 22 of Tua’s passes were considered “short throws.” A lot of times a QB isn’t seeing the field and is checking it down quickly, but when every throw in one game is short, you start to question beyond the QB’s ability. Yes, Tua recently said his grasp of the playbook wasn’t as perfect as you’d want it to be, but he also won 6 games with that knowledge, and mentioned the playbook was a little simple when he was in. If that last part was a simple fact, or a shot at Gailey, we may never know. However, Gailey “retired” and co-offensive coordinators George Godsey and Eric Studesville have designed an offense around the strengths of Tua. Having a year of experience and a playbook that is fit for him will significantly help.
There was also the notion that Tua couldn’t throw the deep ball, obviously anyone who knows football knows that isn’t true. He threw a plethora of beautiful deep balls, plenty of which were dropped as mentioned above. On his deep balls last season, he had 260 yards and 2 touchdowns, which was better than Burrow, Darnold, Garropollo, and Goff. He has plenty of ability to throw deep balls and move the offense down field, people just need to open their eyes and watch.
Does a new WR room, help at RB, and better OC’s mean he’s going to be a baller right away? No, but we can sure hope so. According to many in attendance at practice, Tua clearly “has more zip on the ball.” When you combine those improvements with huge strides in the weight room, extra time with his WR’s, and a full year of being healthy, it’s not bold to expect a big leap from Tua Tagovailoa.
Follow Rishi Desai on twitter.Tweet
3 thoughts on “Stop Worrying About Tua”