The absence of Tua Tagovailoa can be felt throughout the Dolphins’ franchise, but no one misses him more than Jaylen Waddle.
We all miss Tua Tagovailoa. His coaches miss him, his teammates miss him, and the fans who have been pulling for him through all of the adversity miss him. Heck, even the people who prayed on his downfall are hoping that he makes a healthy and strong return to the great play he exhibited through the first three weeks of the season.
But there may not be anyone that misses Tagovailoa being the Miami Dolphins quarterback more than Jaylen Waddle.
The two were famously teammates at the University of Alabama, and have strengthened their connection during their time together in the NFL. Tagovailoa helped Waddle break the record for most catches by a rookie in league history during the 2021 season, and they carried over their production in to the current campaign. During the Dolphins’ 3-0 start, Waddle had 19 catches for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns. He was targeted 30 times.
None of the offense has looked the same without Tagovailoa, but the difference in Waddle’s production is glaringly apparent. He has been noticeably silent, having been targeted just eight times in the past two games, catching 5 passes for a total of 63 yards and no touchdowns.
His teammate Tyreek Hill may get most of the accolades, and rightfully so. He is one of the best wide receivers in the game, and led the league in yards coming into Week 5. But Hill is going to be able to get his numbers with essentially anyone throwing him the ball. When a reporter asked him if he was worried about his numbers without Tua, Hill responded, “I’ll get my numbers with you throwing me the ball.”
Waddle isn’t quite there yet. He, along with Hill, has one of the top speeds in the NFL, but he doesn’t have the uninterrupted ability to change a game using simply his shiftiness. Waddle needs a quarterback who is able to get him the ball in open space, or at least one that will look his way once in a while.
That guy is certainly not Skylar Thompson, and it doesn’t look like it will be Teddy Bridgewater either. We aren’t sure about any kind of timetable for his return to game action, but when Tua Tagovailoa comes back, so will Jaylen Waddle.
But hopefully even sooner. Waddle certainly doesn’t need Tua to be his quarterback in order to be successful, but working with him longtime buddy sure does make things easier.