Going into Sunday’s matchup in Hard Rock Stadium between the Dolphins and the Jets, young standout receiver Jaylen Waddle is in the COVID-19 protocols and is expected to be inactive.
Waddle has been the number one receiver as of late, having back–to–back games of at least 90 yards, racking up 18 catches on 21 targets. It’s clear Waddle is second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa’s favorite receiver, and their chemistry has only grown of late. This makes his potential absence that much more devastating for a divisional matchup and the potential to get to .500.
Although, the return of DeVante Parker showed that Waddle isn’t the only one who brings an element out of Tua.
As has been covered time and time again, Tua Tagovailoa’s rookie season was divisive, to say the least. Many questioned his arm strength, injuries, and ability to outplay journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick.
These concerns primarily stemmed from Tua’s tendency, or lack thereof, to push the ball down the field. In key moments, he consistently took the underneath routes, and it largely worked. He was 6-3 as the starter and was able to keep control with an elite defense on the other side.
However, in several key moments, his aggressiveness didn’t ramp up in the way many hoped for. Whether it was the playcalling, which was underneath under Chan Gailey, or other factors, many expected more from the former Alabama QB. Thus, Tagovailoa was benched twice in key situations for the aforementioned Fitzpatrick, further bringing down his reputation.
Following the promotion of George Godsey and Eric Studesville to co-coordinators, many expected a largely different offense in 2021. However, through the first few games, it appeared that the game plan was similar.
Miami, under both Tua and backup Jacoby Brissett, kept a majority of passes short, utilizing a heavy RPO system. Although the RPO was to be expected, many still wanted to see more shots down the field.
A variety of reasons could be attributed to this, including an injury to deep-threat Will Fuller, who broke several bones in his hand, but it was clear that something needed to change.
It appeared, after seventh-year receiver DeVante Parker came back against the Giants, however, that the deep element was finally becoming a staple in Miami’s offense.
The Back-Shoulder Fade
With DeVante Parker’s return against the New York Giants, it was clear that something was different. Specifically, Tua and Miami were taking more shots up the side of the field, particularly on fade routes.
On two separate occasions, Tua let the ball go before Parker turned around, showing a trust we believed only to be there with Waddle.
The first example of this is shown below. As soon as Tua sees that the defensive back’s eyes are off the ball, he lofts it into the place where only Parker can make a play. The veteran, who is widely regarded as an elite jump-ball receiver, high points the ball and gets two feet down.
That play in specific is the one that Miami hasn’t had in their time with Tua Tagovailoa. The RPO offense has and will continue to be their base, but mixing in deep plays like this keeps defenses honest, and is what can make such an efficient quarterback such as Tua hard to stop.
The second play, shown in the tweet below, also demonstrates the same thing. With the corner’s back turned and pressure coming, Tua lofts it up and gets it to Parker. It’s clear defenses, don’t see this coming, and it’s added a new element to Miami’s offense.
The Bottom Line
The deep fade routes are a specialty of DeVante Parker, and are honestly something few else can match. With the threat of the ball going outside, teams are less likely to crowd the middle of the field. This gives Tua room to work in the area of the field he operates best in.
With DeVante Parker, the Miami Dolphins are simply a better team. His ability to stretch the field is unmatched by the majority of the league. His production on the field speaks for itself, and along with helping the run game and being an elite player, he significantly helps your young quarterback.
Although missing Jaylen Waddle is a big deal, it will interesting to see how Tua Tagovailoa performs with DeVante Parker.