Tua Tagovailoa With Mike McDaniel: Is it a Good Fit?

Tua Tagovailoa is entering his third year in the NFL, and new Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel is committed to maximizing his skillset.

Tua Tagovailoa fit with Mike McDaniel
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins (Photo by USA Today Sports)

Mike McDaniel and the Miami Dolphins coaching staff was officially introduced, and in their introductory pressers, one common thread shined through: Respect and reverence for 3rd-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

New offensive coordinator Frank Smith sounded thrilled to work with Tua, stating that it will be “really, really cool” to have him as the starting quarterback. Smith seems to appreciate what he did in college and wants to bring that success to the pros.

Frank Smith is excited to have Tua Tagovailoa at QB.

Whether you’re confident in Tagovailoa’s ability or not, it’s fair to admit that he didn’t receive public reassurance like this under Flores. Amid early-career struggles and injuries, Tua also had to deal with the head coach, who drafted him actively pursuing his replacement.

On the other hand, McDaniel’s staff is building Tua up, as he will get this year to prove his worth. Quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell stated that this scheme would be tailored to his strengths. The goal is to bring out “all of the positives in his game,” as Bevell stated last week.

Bevell will be working right together with Tua, and it seems he’s committed to maximizing his skills. What skills stood out? Bevell mentioned his accuracy and ability to work off-script, which were both seen in limited amounts in Miami. However, it can be operated with, and the staff has noticed it.

Although the former first-round pick worked primarily out of the RPO in 2021, his rookie year shows a skill set that suits Mike McDaniel. Under Chan Gailey, Tagovailoa saw opportunities under-center very similarly to teams of the 49ers past. His ability to make throws on the move fits the play-action game well, and it showed up in his first two years.

On the Move

One thing that stood out in watching Tua Tagovailoa, especially in 2020, was his ability to make throws off play-action. Tua manipulates the ball and his eyes at a high level when on the move. This opened up passing lanes and evolved into one of his best and most underutilized skills.

Tua Tagovailoa makes a nice throw to Mike Gesicki vs. Arizona.

In 2020, Chan Gailey made a few of these calls to get Tua in rhythm. Simple rollouts to a big tight end who will make a play, he executed them at a high level. His ability to open up the middle of the field with his eyes was strong, and he had many wondering where more of it was.

Tua finds Mike Gesicki on the rollout for a TD.

There was a stretch of games where this was commonplace for Miami’s offense, and it seemed like it would evolve in 2021. While Tua Tagovailoa continued to improve at this skill, it wasn’t utilized nearly enough. However, Tua had significant success in the red zone in limited usage.

A prime example of this comes against the New York Giants. Myles Gaskin comes around in motion. Tua sells the fake perfectly, showing his point-guard-like skills of ball manipulation. After manipulating several defenders, he begins to roll left. His eyes remained towards the middle; however, he freed Isaiah Ford at the pylon.

Tua Tagovailoa throws a TD to Isaiah Ford

Tua can quickly get his eyes and feet back to Ford with his quick trigger. By the time the ball gets out, it’s an easy TD. Tua has one of the fastest releases in the game, and Mike McDaniel’s staff will have fun using it.

The Bottom Line on Tua Tagovailoa and Mike McDaniel

Tua Tagovailoa still has a lot to prove in 2022. Although we have seen some flashes, there hasn’t been nearly enough to say he’s the quarterback of the future.

However, he’s now entering an offense that prioritizes one of his top skills. The ability to make throws off play-action is enormous and has been the basis of Mike McDaniel’s passing game. Miami will be a run-first team, so it’s crucial to capitalize on these opportunities when they arise. Although, the tape from years past shows Tua is more than capable of doing so.

Mike McDaniel, Frank Smith, Darrell Bevell, and the rest of the offensive staff are dedicated to maximizing Tua Tagovailoa. So the play-action seems like the perfect place to start with the former number five overall pick.

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