Time to Snap Data adds a New Wrinkle to Tua Tagovailoa’s Game

Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa had a solid performance in his first game back, but analytics show an interesting trend in his game.

The future of the Miami Dolphins is murky to say the least. Following the return of Tua from a rib injury, the Dolphins fell to the Jaguars 23-20, losing their 5th straight game. However, there is a silver lining after losing to the Jaguars and the never-ending swirl of Deshaun Watson trade rumors.

Coming off of fractured ribs, Tua threw for 329 yards and 2 touchdowns, showing some promise Miami desperately needs.

Although, Tua made some questionable plays, Tua led Miami to 2 long touchdown drives in which he made several solid throws, finding rhythm early on scripted drives and finishing strong with a 90 yard drive to keep Miami in the game.

Through the first 12 starts of his young career, a pattern is starting to emerge in the success of Tua. After charting every dropback from Sunday’s game in London, I noticed a strong correlation between yards gained and time-to-snap.

Quick to the Line

Of Tua’s 49 dropbacks, nine of them resulted in plays of 15 yards or more. All nine of those big plays came with seven or more seconds remaining on the play clock. Five of those nine snaps came with more than 10 seconds left on the clock.

Tua Tagovailoa snap stats
Percentages of Time on the Play Clock Remaining on 15+ Yard Plays.

Currently, this offense is designed to get to the line quickly, as Miami drafted a QB who ran one of the most efficient collegiate offenses at Alabama.

Running a variety of RPO’s (run-pass options), Tua was able to lead a prolific 3rd ranked scoring offense in his Sophomore year. It was clear that playing in pace was key for his decision making process. Tua played instinctually and caught defenses off guard with quick throws.

However; with the blueprint for success outlined, Miami came to the table with different plans. In press conferences throughout the season, coaches and Tagovailoa himself stated that their idea was to get to the line quickly, but delay the snap of the ball in order to identify coverages, call-out blitzes, and find soft spots.

In doing so, Miami also causes themselves unforeseen consequences. Defenses now have more time to recover from the previous play, and the ability to make their own counters to what they see on the field. This also has led to significantly worse results for Miami’s young quarterback, particularly early in drives.

The Effects of Starting Slow

Of Tagovailoa’s 11 drives, five of them started with gains of two yards or less (including his INT). ALL five of those snaps came with 10 or less seconds left on the play clock, with minimal gains causing Miami to fall behind on down-and-distance, preventing sustained drives.

Tua Tagovailoa’s Drive Starting Dropbacks with Play Clock Time and Yards Gained.

It’s clear that getting to the line fast, especially early on in drives, significantly increases Tagovailoa’s confidence, pace, and production. Miami had five drive-starting snaps with 11 or more seconds on the play clock, and ALL of them started with gains of at least five yards.

Upping the Pace Late

One of those drives, a 90 yard TD drive in the 4th quarter, started with a snap with 14 seconds left on the play clock. Tua was able to find to find Mike Gesicki over the middle on a game-high 32 yard pass.

On that drive, which was Tua’s best of the game, Miami made quick snaps a priority, snapping with 10 seconds or more remaining on three of the first four plays. The result? Each of those three plays went for 12 yards or more.

The flexibility of Miami’s offense grows with Tagovailoa’s comfortability, however, as the Dolphins were able to wait longer to snap the ball later on in drives, with a similar level of success.

It is clear that the early drive gains are dependent on getting to the line fast, as Tua’s footwork sees a significant drop-off when he is forced to beat the clock early on, which throws him out of rhythm for long portions of drives.

As he was in college, Tua is very much a rhythm based QB, and the ability to get him to act more off of instinct is one that Miami relied too little on, too late in the game.

As a result of that, Miami’s offense was only able to put up 20 points on the Jaguars, the least a Jacksonville opponent has scored all year.

The Bottom Line

With Chris Grier and Brian Flores potentially on the hot seat, Miami is in must-win mode for the rest of the season, and the key for success lies in the hands of a fast-paced Tua Tagovailoa led offense, that we have seen the flashes of.

In the midst of the Deshaun Watson trade rumors, we have seen the narrative on Tua shift to one of a young QB who needs support from his staff and to be put in places where he can succeed. While it is certain that Miami’s staff hasn’t done so to this point, the perfect opportunity to change the narrative lies ahead.

On Wednesday, it was reported that Flores and his staff will be open to different methods of teaching in order to battle through adversity. It will be interesting to see if it includes a shift to a faster paced offense. It may improve Miami’s success rate in early drive situations, much how it has up to this point.

View the Full Chart with Time To Snap, Down, Distance and Success here!

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