The Definitive Requirements for Tua Tagovailoa to Succeed in 2022

Tua Tagovailoa is entering the deciding year of his career, and he must improve in several key areas if he is to succeed.

There may be no more heavily debated and disputed player in the NFL than Tua Tagovailoa. Dating back to his first starts in college, he’s been analyzed to a degree few NFL prospects have ever seen. Many were sold on his “it factor” after his infamous game winning touchdown against Georgia in the National Championship. However, just as many were skeptical, and doubted his ability to lead an NFL offense.

This lead to heavy debate on his potential draft position, which reached it’s pinnacle when he suffered a career threatening injury against Mississippi State. Many still saw him as a top five pick, while others had him out of the first round entirely.

The former, however, was the only opinion that mattered when Tua was selected number five overall in 2020 by the Miami Dolphins. The team searching for their first elite quarterback since Marino took one of their biggest risks to date.

However, the divisiveness of Tagovailoa has only continued to grow. He has shown flashes of the quarterback many believe him to be, but has had just as many head-scratching moments. These have drawn out extreme takes and biases on both sides. Nonetheless, somewhere in the middle lies a quarterback with definitive strengths and weaknesses. It is with these that we can form the foundation of what can be built upon and what needs to be fixed in the most important year of the young quarterback’s career.

By many accounts, the most important quarterback traits are as follows: arm talent (strength and accuracy), anticipation, processing, pocket presence, and footwork. My goal is to evaluate where Tua Tagovailoa lies on each of these categories, and discover an attainable goal where I, and hopefully the rest of Dolphins media and fandom, can consider this season a success.

Arm Talent

Coming into the NFL, Tua’s strengths and weaknesses as far as arm strength and accuracy were well documented. Coming from the RPO-heavy Steve Sarkisian system, it was clear that he possessed elite short area accuracy and ball placement.

It was also clear that he wasn’t a premier deep ball thrower. While he could hit the open shot once in a while, he wasn’t going to hit the cover-2 hole shots at a rate similar to 2020 draft counterpart Justin Herbert. It wasn’t necessarily an issue, but a clear niche in which his game found itself.

However, the intermediate area is where the debate began. Despite Tagovailoa’s historically high efficiency numbers, there were serious questions about how inflated they were from a primarily one-read scheme. If Tua would have to read more of the field, would his accuracy take a major dip?

When combined with below average true accuracy between the 10 and 19 yard line, the results we would see in the NFL became telling.

Tua Tagovailoa has struggled immensely in the intermediate passing game since arriving in the NFL. Per NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Tua’s passer rating on passes between 10 and 20 yards to the middle and right thirds of the field is significantly below average. However, when targeting the left third, his 118.5 rating dominates the league average of 89.2.

Tua Tagovailoa’s grid, per NFL’s NextGenStats.

This shows a clear area in which he needs to improve. Luckily, there is a visible path to doing so in the Mike McDaniel offense. McDaniel, along with his run-game prowess, has shown the abilty to draw up deadly play action looks. Specifically, boot concepts in which San Francisco’s playmakers would attack the intermediate zones.

The result: Jimmy Garoppolo was above league average in each of the intermediate thirds. It’s clear that Tua can do the same. He has the talent to do so, and it is crucial that he takes advantage of those opportunities when they arise.

Jimmy Garoppolo was above average to elite in the middle thirds of the field.

The goal: attain an above average passer rating in ALL THREE intermediate thirds of the field.

Anticipation and Processing

RPO-based systems are among the hardest to evaluate, due to the fact that so much comes off of one read. Typically, this would stray away talent evaluators, who haven’t seen the quarterback operate in a more complex scheme, but the clip that Tua was able to connect on was generational, and gave many hope that he could do it on a larger scale.

This would be crucial. Given Tagovailoa’s size and physical tools, he would have to be able to compensate with an elite football mind. However, since arriving in the league, he’s yet to demonstrate it.

Far too often, Tua stares down his first read, telegraphing where the ball is going, and allowing DB’s to make a play. Furthermore, when he gets to his second and third reads, he’s either too late or doesn’t trust what he sees. This oftentimes leads to sacks or turnovers.

Tua stares down a receiver and his arm doesn’t make up for the mistake.

It’s difficult to determine how Tua can get rid of these bad habits, and thus the “slow blinker” asterisk. Although, we can also understand that Tagovailoa has significantly better offensive coaching than he has seen to this point. McDaniel, offensive coordinator Frank Smith and new quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell all have a reputaition around the league as bright offensive minds. It’s likely that they can draw up plays to help cover this up.

However, Tagovailoa can’t be complacent, and must see things quicker. Whether it’s mental reps, more studying of the playbook, or simply just more live action, he must improve, and with the recent training camp clip that has surfaced, it appears that he has.

This clip shows Tua hitting Tyreek Hill in stride for a one handed catch and a touchdown. However, the catch isn’t the surprising part. When Tagovailoa releases the ball, Hill is still covered, and hasn’t found the soft spot in the coverage. Despite this, Tua showed more faith in his eyes, and put it in the perfect spot for his receiver to catch it. This is exactly what we are going to need to see more of, and it’s promising that it’s showing in camp.

Tua Tagovailoa puts this ball on the money in camp.

The more film study, time with receivers, or mental reps Tua runs himself through, the more benefits he will reap. His mentality towards the game must improve. Thus, his play on the field will be a strong indicator of if it has.

The goal: know the situation like the back of your hand.

Pocket Presence

If there is one trait that has been an overwhelming positive in Tua Tagovailoa’s game since being drafted, it’s his ability to sense and evade edge pressure. Miami’s offensive line has been frustrating, to say the least, but Tua has largely been able to subdue those struggles with great pocket movement.

Tua evades edge pressure, steps up, and makes a strong throw.

Much of what makes Tua potentially great is how he is able to maneuver edge pressure. It is when that pressure comes up the middle, however, that we begin to see the common problem that becomes his biggest flaw.

Footwork

Robotic: a term often thought of in a negative connotation, but is one of the most common positive descriptors of Tua’s game. In clean pockets, his mechanics are as consistent as they come. His feet follow his eyes, and often lead to smart, quick decisions. However, it is when defenses send pressure through the A and B gaps that his footwork sees a significant drop off.

This is a common issue among young quarterbacks. It’s hard for any human being to maintain strong footwork with 300 pound men being pushed into their knees. However, many of those quarterbacks don’t take the brunt of the blow to their arm strength in the way Tua does.

Due to the arm strength concerns mentioned earlier, Tua needs his feet to be in line with his throws. He doesn’t have the arm of a Mahomes or Josh Allen, who can make off platform plays with ease. However, he creates several by fading on throws with A-gap pressure, which often lead to poor results.

Tua fades on a throw, and thus it’s incomplete.

This will be the hardest habit to break, and has been something few are able to achieve. However, it may be the most crucial to Tua’s success. While Miami worked on their offensive line this off-season, it still isn’t perfect. There will be plays where teams are able to get into his lap, but he can’t crumble. He has to be able to sit in and make a strong throw, or get out of the pocket, as he has successfully done in the past.

Tua Tagovailoa evades the interior pressure and makes a solid throw.

Tua has shown development in this area, but if he is to become a successful quarterback, it must become a strength, rather than his biggest weakness.

The goal: sustain success at the sight of interior pressure.

The Bottom Line on Tua Tagovailoa in 2022

The most divisive quarterback in the league is going into the deciding year of his career. Stories like this are what the NFL is made of, and while many believe Tua’s fate is set in stone, it’s far from the truth.

There are attainable goals, some more difficult than others, that in my eyes, can correlate to a successful 2022 season. If Miami’s quarterback is able to improve in the key areas I outlined the questions will begin to fade. The noise of bringing in his replacement will become a calming silence, and most importantly, the Miami Dolphins will reach heights unseen in decades.

This is it. This year we will see what the heralded franchise savior is made of. The mountain is steep, but the journey of climbing it will be all so satisfying if Tua Tagovailoa reaches it’s summit.

Could the Miami Dolphins Trade for Kareem Hunt?

Kareem Hunt has been rumored to be traded, and a trade to the Miami Dolphins could potentially be a possibility.

The Miami Dolphins have made several moves at the running back position this offseason, agreeing to terms with free agents Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel. However, more backs appear to be available, with Kareem Hunt topping the list of backs available to the Miami Dolphins.

Hunt’s trade rumors have begun to circulate following the Browns’ recent backfield moves. After already signing Nick Chubb to an extension last year, they drafted Jerome Ford in the fifth round and gave D’Ernest Johnson (who impressed last year) an extension of his own.

This leaves Hunt, who only has one year left on his deal, as the potential odd man out. While Hunt and Chubb have certainly been a dynamic duo, Cleveland clearly wants to utilize their young pieces. This may leave the former Chiefs star wanting more touches, and thus, being moved. On top of this, Hunt has been “holding in” at practice. Rumors say that he either wants a raise or to be traded.

Kareem Hunt is rumored to potentially be traded.

The Miami Dolphins, who have had a talent deficiency at running back over the last two seasons, were naturally connected to Hunt, and for good reason. His ability to make plays out of the backfield is among the best in the league, and provides a dynamic skillset the team has lacked.

Is it Practical?

However, I mentioned earlier, the Dolphins have already made several moves at their running back position. These signings clearly have them leaning towards a running back by committee, similar to Mike McDaniel’s San Francisco scheme. This makes little sense for Hunt, however, who is already coming from a similar situation. While Hunt would be the most talented back, he would still have to split touches with at least three others. That likely wouldn’t work for Hunt, who would seek an increased workload and more money if he was to be moved. Miami likely has already allocated too many assets to other backs to put money and picks into a Hunt trade.

The Bottom Line on Kareem Hunt and the Miami Dolphins

Had these rumors circulated earlier in the offseason, Miami would have made sense. They were clearly looking for veteran contributors, and had lost Duke Johnson, who saw significant touches late in the year.

However, the timing is at it’s worst for Miami. Hunt is extremely talented, and likely will see high production wherever he goes, it’s just unlikely to be with Miami. Their room is simply too crowded for someone who will demand the touches that Hunt does. They have the capital to make the deal, but already have allocated so many assets to the position.

Miami has more than capable backs in Mostert, Edmonds, Michel, Myles Gaskin and Savlon Ahmed, and we can expect to see them divvy up touches come the start of the season.

Erik Ezukanma: The Rising Star of Miami Dolphins Training Camp

The Miami Dolphins are almost two weeks into training camp, and rookie wide receiver Erik Ezukanma is among the standouts.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Erik Ezukanma at training camp
Photo Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are almost two weeks into training camp, and their combination of scheme and talent are beginning to take shape. As both players and coaches get more comfortable, there have been several breakout performances. There may be none more impressive, however, than rookie wide receiver Erik Ezukanma.

Erik Ezukanma Profile

Coming out of Texas Tech, Ezukanma presented a unique skillset. Along with an impressive 6’2″, 205 pound frame, he possessed the ability to make big plays at the catch point, along with in YAC situations. This versatility was what stood out to new Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, who operated with similar weapons in San Francisco. Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, both drafted during McDaniel’s tenure, have been utilized in myriad ways. While Ezukanma wasn’t drafted as highly as those two, the vision of how he can be used is there.

Performing in Training Camp

Fast forward about three months, and training camp is upon us. Having attended the last two days, Erik Ezukanma’s skill and versatility are as advertised. It seems that he’s making plays every day, and has proven he belongs with the starting group.

Standing out has been his ability to win off the line and attack zone coverage. There has been more than one occasion over the last two practices where Ezukanma was faced with press coverage. In those scenarios, he uses a combination of strong hands and quick feet to get off the line. As for the latter, his ability to sense and attack space has been noticeable. There were several occasions over the last couple days where he stopped his route in the dead spot of the zone. Each time, he attacked the football and made a play.

Ezukanma beats man coverage over the top.

It is the skill of attacking the football that has also stood out, particularly in one-on-one situations. It’s clear that he’s a natural receiver, especially in the sense of timing and ball tracking. When a jump ball is thrown his way, he is able to high-point it and make a play. That’s a skill the Dolphins wide receiver room is lacking after trading DeVante Parker to the Patriots. His skillset complements that of speedsters Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill, providing elements they lack.

Erik Ezukanma making a in play one-on one drills.

The Bottom Line on Erik Ezukanma

Although it’s only been a little over a week, and overreactions are common in the off-season, Erik Ezukanma has been a consistent top performer. In an offense dominated by veteran depth at the skill position, a rookie has found his way into the spotlight.

It will be intriguing to see if Miami gives him more run with the starting unit in practice, as well as how much he plays on August 13th, where Miami takes on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their first preseason game. Then, we will see if the rookie with the self-proclaimed nickname “Eazy-E” lives up to the hype.

Julio Jones is Still Dangerous with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Julio Jones has signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and this film breakdown shows he still has some left in the tank.

NFL training camp is finally underway and there are moves, particularly one from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that are very intriguing and may change how we view those teams in the future. Julio Jones, formerly of the Falcons and Titans, signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a one-year contract. He will now be joining Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as one of the best wide receiver trios in the NFL.

You might be thinking that Jones isn’t the same receiver as he once was. While you may be right, I’m here to tell you — with the help of some film from a game against the Seattle Seahawks — that he still has some left in the tank. I’ve compiled some tape from last year that shows just how good Julio Jones was before he got hurt and battled injury throughout most of the season, and that he still can be very good in a wide receiver three or four role on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Attacking the Football

This first clip of Jones truly demonstrates that he can still attack the football at a high level. He’s on the bottom of the screen and, as the defensive back is coming off, he is prepping to run an in-breaking route. Ryan Tannehill looks his way the entire time. Jones makes a really solid break towards the ball, goes up and high-points the football, and makes a great catch. His ability to make hands-catches is rare, and Jones showed that he still has some left in the tank.

Julio Jones attacking the football.

Speed and Big-Play Potential

You might not think of Julio Jones’ speed as something that can still impress this late in his career and as something he may have lost when he went to the Tennessee Titans. However, in spurts it really is still there, and here’s a prime example of it.

On this deep ball Jones is on the top of the screen. The defensive back is playing off so Jones attacks him outside stepping in and doing a little stutter step. This throws the defensive back’s footing off just enough that Jones is able to speed past him, go over the top, and catch this great throw from Ryan Tannehill. It really is that footwork right before that makes this play possible.

Jones’ route-running is really still some of the best in the league, and he has proven that he can still make deep catches such as this one. I expect the volume of those to only improve as he joins Tom Brady.

Julio Jones makes a big play over the top.

A Savvy Veteran

Here’s an example of a crossing route, which Tom Brady really loves to throw. In this instance, Tennessee runs a play-action and Jones comes from the top of the screen down. What he does really well is attack the empty spots on the field, rather than just running the route the way that it’s written down in the playbook.

He attacks the empty part of the field and comes back to attack the football as soon as Ryan Tannehill makes this throw. This could have easily been batted down or incomplete, but he comes back and attacks the football. Julio Jones’ ball skills are still some of the best in the league, and he’ll have ample opportunity to show that with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Julio Jones attacking weak spots in the defense.

Yards After the Catch

On this play we see more of Julio Jones’ running ability and how it really was still there before he went down with the injury that sidelined him several weeks. He’s really good at not only attacking the football, but attacking defensive backs and using his footwork to gain leverage.

Here he does that exact thing. It’s really a simple route, but because he didn’t give up his intentions, the defensive back has no idea where he’s going. When he makes this simple cut in it almost makes the defensive back drop to the floor. Jones is able to catch the ball in space and attacks the open grass for a big gain.

Julio Jones working after the catch.

Red-Zone Work

Here is another example, and really the best combination of Julio Jones not only attacking space on the field, but also attacking the football when it comes his way. From the snap, he just goes straight to his spot and makes a quick little move on the defender.

Ryan Tannehill puts this ball up while getting hit and Julio Jones, aware of the sideline, goes up and high points it. He makes a perfect catch and is somehow able to tap both feet in bounds and get a touchdown. This play was later overturned, but it certainly looks like he got in.

This is vintage Julio Jones if I’ve ever seen it, and if he can bring some of these plays to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he’s healthy, they’re going to be an absolutely dangerous team.

Quick Feet

Jones’ quick feet are what’s going to keep him relevant in this game for a while — and what has done so to this point. Here, it’s really a simple route, but it puts the defensive back in a blender. Jones spins back towards the football and goes up to make a play. His foot speed is still off the charts when healthy, and he can still teach defensive backs a lesson.

Julio Jones with some nasty footwork.

The Bottom Line on Julio Jones and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This game really showed some of the vintage Julio Jones that still remains in 2022. He had 133 yards receiving and dominated just about anybody that was put in front of him. However, teams with wide receiver needs, such as the Ravens and Packers left him for Brady and the Bucs. it’s only a matter of time before they come to regret this and we see the Brady-Jones connection in action.

Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared as a video on Tyler’s YouTube channel. Head over there to check out the full video!

3 Miami Dolphins Players Who are Poised for a Breakout

The Miami Dolphins are heading into one of their most crucial seasons in decades, and three players appear poised for a breakout year.

Dolphins safety Jevon Holland is poised to be one of the team's breakout players
Photo Credit: Wilfredo Lee/AP

The Miami Dolphins are entering a pivotal year in their history. Mike McDaniel enters his first season as head coach, and the team arguably has the most talent we’ve seen since the Dan Marino era. However, many players’ fates lie in their production this year.

Namely, this is considered a make-or-break year for Tua Tagovailoa, who has had a divisive first two seasons. If he fails to take the next step, there is a high chance we see him replaced before the 2023 season.

There are several players on the team who appear ready to take the next step. It’s difficult to predict Miami Dolphins breakout players, but the stars seem to be aligning for these three players in particular.

Raekwon Davis

Defensive tackle Raekwon Davis had an up-and-down start to last season. Miami had given up significant yardage on the ground in the first two weeks, but after he went down with a knee injury, the impact he had on the team began to show.

After week one, Miami lost seven straight games, and their run defense was a large part of it. Even though he only missed three games, it was clear that he wasn’t 100 percent. However, as he became closer to full form, Miami’s defense transformed itself. They won significantly more up front. However, it was others who reaped the benefits.

It’s possible, however, that production and numbers align for Davis this year. Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelan Phillips, and Andrew Van Ginkel have all improved in their time here. Thus, they will all garner more attention from offensive coordinators and O-lines. If they see more double teams, it’s likely Miami’s interior lineman, namely Davis, get free more often, wreaking havoc in the run and pass game.

Jevon Holland and Raekwon Davis are wreaking havoc in OTA’s.

Jevon Holland

Safety Jevon Holland had one of the best rookie seasons Dolphins fans have seen in quite some time. Playing in centerfield, Holland had the middle of the field on lockdown. He showed the ball-hawking ability that he was praised for at Oregon, and even snagged two interceptions. However, there is still room for improvement.

Holland passed the eye test, but his stats were a primary reason that he didn’t gain the attention of the national media. If he is able to turn more of his PBUs into INTs, it’s very possible he’s in the same conversation as All-Pro safeties like Kevin Byard and Jordan Poyer.

Jevon Holland was a shutdown DB last year.

Entering his second year in Miami’s defensive scheme, there will be a new level of comfort for Holland. When you combine that with his supporting cast, it raises the likelihood of a breakout season for one of the Dolphins most promising young players.

Noah Igbinoghene

The dark horse pick of the group, a breakout season for Noah Igbinoghene is likely just wishful thinking. Miami’s cornerbacks are arguably their strongest group, and the first round pick has struggled to see the field. Furthermore, his play, in limited opportunity, hasn’t been promising.

However, the tools with Igbinoghene are all there, and it was known that he would take some time to develop. Over the last two years, the 22 year old has sat under two of the best corners in the league: Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Being able to learn from them without the pressure of stepping in right away allows for a focus on improvement.

Noah Igbinoghene is one of the hardest workers Sam Madison has been around.

Igbinoghene likely won’t see significant snaps outside, but if slated nickel starter Nik Needham struggles, it’s possible they look in the former Auburn Tiger’s direction. He has all of the athletic tools and is one of the youngest players on the team, so a major leap isn’t out of the question.

The Miami Dolphins’ breakout potential is the highest we’ve seen in years, and Igbinoghene, as well as Davis and Holland, show a potential to help this team reach new heights in 2022.