On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins pulled back some of the playbood for Tua Tagovailoa and it worked.
Tua Tagovailoa gave Miami Dolphins fans a glimpse of what they can expect from him at this next level and it was a beautiful thing.
After a questionable start to his NFL career a week ago, mostly not his fault, the Dolphins lined up their rookie QB against another rising young team in the Arizona Cardinals and when it was all over, we learned a lot more about Tua Tagovailoa.
The Cardinals put pressure on Tua the entire game and early on, he seemed at times to have a “deer in a headlight look” and took some sacks he shouldn’t have. This is an area he will learn to adapt to, and well, he did. In the 2nd half he took the pressure and ran out of the pocket and advanced the ball and extended the drives.
Coming out of Alabama, very few questioned his accuracy throwing the football. On Sunday, he showed he was able to make every NFL throw. One dig on Tua is that he is more of a quick slant route QB but that wasn’t the case. His fade pass into the endzone for a touchdown was spot on and he tossed the ball all over the field. There were some errant throws while under pressure and he really needs to work on throwing the ball away instead of into the ground but overall, he was pretty much spot on.
One thing that we have not seen from many QBs in Miami since Dan Marino played is the ability to check the reads of the defense and then progress through your looks for an open player. Over the last decade or more, Miami QBs have tended to go more with a one and two read option and that has led to option three not only being open but missed. This was a staple with Ryan Tannehill.
Tua on Sunday showed that he doesn’t need a lot of time to make his reads and quickly checks through his routes for open receivers. Not that it matters all the time, his ball placement was really good on Sunday too.
Tua was able to create first down plays with his legs on three drives Sunday with all of them at critical times in the game. The outcome may have been different had he not been able to advance the drive on two of those rushing attempts. Tua gained confidence for the first time this year in his ability to run out of the pocket and use his legs.
Still, there was one thing that was more impressive. Tua is learning to avoid pocket collapse and escape from the speedier NFL lineman but Tua isn’t quick like some other mobile quarterbacks to just pull it and run. Tua is dangerous because he can throw literally while running with the ball and is accurate as well.
One knock on Tua is that the game at this level may be too big for him. We learned on Sunday that it is not. In his first game needing to lead a comeback late for a win, he put together an impressive drive that ended with a field goal. That field goal was the difference in the game but there was little visible nervousness showing.
Tua took the game on his shoulders and elevated the players around him. He became the unquestioned leader on offense Sunday and showed his teammates that they can win close games with him and that he wouldn’t whither under the pressure.