In a difficult 2020 season where the Miami Dolphins missed the playoffs by 1 game, Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa showed ups and downs. While the team was 6 and 3 in his starts, he was pulled in 2 games in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
In the games where Tagovailoa struggled, he showed a lack of confidence in the plays he was running, and in his wide receivers ability to get open down the field.
Unlike his Wide Receivers with the Alabama Crimson Tide, who were elite separators, the Dolphins group last year was filled with possession receivers like DeVante Parker and Preston Williams, who didn’t fit Tagovailoa’s skillset of anticipating and making throws to get receivers on the run. Rather, they fit the skillset of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who took more shots down the field to contested receivers.
Along with the receiving core, the offensive line also struggled during both Tagovailoa and Fitzpatrick’s starts. Pro Football Focus graded the Dolphins O-Line as the 5th worst in the NFL, citing that it was to be expected with 3 rookies (Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, and Solomon Kindley) getting significant playing time. While the rookies showed promise, they were overmatched by some of the leagues top pass rushers, and were inconsistent in both their protection and run blocking.
To fix both of these issues, the Dolphins spent significant cap space and draft capital, picking up weapons like former Texans Wide Receiver Will Fuller in free agency and Tagovailoa’s collegiate teammate, Jaylen Waddle in the draft, while also acquiring Center Matt Skura from Baltimore and Notre Dame Tackle Liam Eichenberg to help shore up the line.
But while these moves will most certainly help Tua, arguably the most under-the-radar move came from the offensive coaching staff.
Along with promoting offensive assistants George Godsey and Eric Studesville to be co-offensive coordinators, Miami hired former NFL Quarterback Charlie Frye to be the team’s new QB coach, replacing Robby Brown, who was a part of the Chan Gailey regime (who was let go this offseason). Frye was previously the offensive coordinator and QBs coach at Central Michigan, an offense that averaged over 31 points per game last year.
As for the NFL, Frye’s career was subpar. From 2005 to 2009, he accumulated only 17 touchdowns while throwing 19 interceptions.
Although Frye had an unsuccessful career as a starter in Cleveland, it was his years as a backup where he was able to sit back and comprehend pro-style offenses that he would learn to teach young quarterbacks, one of which was an 18 year old Tua Tagovailoa.
After he had committed to Alabama, Tagovailoa attended Trent Dilfer’s Elite 11 camp, which would have 11 of the top quarterbacks in the nation compete to work on their game and ultimately crown an MVP.
Through 7 on 7 drills, simulated draft combine interviews, board work, and tests of teamwork and dedication, these quarterbacks, which included highly touted prospects such as Jake Fromm and Hunter Johnson, would look to impress the coaches and outperform their campmates. Among these coaches, who would also call plays in the 7 on 7’s, was Charlie Frye.
Entering the camp, Tagovailoa had been looked at as one of the more raw, less refined prospects. Some were questioning if his ability would translate on the collegiate level, as they weren’t sure that his talent he could adapt to a pro-style system. But under Charlie Frye, who worked closely with him on his craft and maximize his arm talent, Tua was able to improve his game enough to be named Elite 11 MVP, coming off of a 7 on 7 win against 2021 3rd round draft pick Davis Mills.
As the new Quarterbacks coach, Frye will be working closely with Tua on improving his game and creating consistency, something that was hard to come by in the 2020 season.
While Tua performed well in full games like the one against the Arizona Cardinals, where he posted a game winning drive, he struggled in the first half of games against the Bengals, Patriots, and Chiefs; major adjustments had to be made at halftime in order to get him going. But as we saw in the Elite 11 camp, Tua has always been able to adjust to his surroundings and make his way to the top.
With new weapons and an Offensive Line that has another year of experience, Tagovailoa will look for the guidance from his new offensive coaching staff, and most importantly, Charlie Frye, to push this Miami Dolphins team into the playoffs and beyond.
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