We’ve become too accustomed to watching quarterbacks step in as rookies and instantly become superstars. Last year, it was Justin Herbert, the signal-caller for the Los Angeles Chargers who broke essentially every rookie passing record. The year before, Kyler Murray showed flashes of brilliance. Before that, Lamar Jackson dominated when he took the field.
Miami Dolphins’ second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had a bit of an up-and-down rookie year, but we shouldn’t write him off. Once upon a time, being patient with the development of a quarterback was the norm.
Now in his second year and with an improved cast of characters around him on offense, Tagovailoa has an environment primed to allow him to step forward.
Tagovailoa has some new weapons
Last year, the wide receivers in Miami were less than inspiring. DeVante Parker had a breakout season of sorts with 793 receiving yards and four touchdowns, and second-year tight end Mike Gesicki looked promising with 703 receiving yards and six scores.
After that? Basically nothing.
The next leading receiver was running back Myles Gaskin with 388 yards. At the wide receiver position, the next option behind Parker was Jakeem Grant, with only 373 yards. That’s not going to be good enough.
The Dolphins made sure to give Tagovailoa the weapons he needs, addressing the wide receiver position both in free agency and in the NFL Draft.
First, the Dolphins added veteran wide receiver Will Fuller on a one-year $10.6 million contract. Fuller, when healthy, has proven to be one of the best deep threats in the NFL. In 11 games with Houston last season, Fuller racked up 879 receiving yards and eight touchdowns while posting the sixth-highest yards per reception in the NFL at 16.6. That’s a solid deep threat that can open up a defense.
Miami then doubled down by selecting the explosive Jaylen Waddle out of Alabama with the No. 6 overall pick this year. Waddle is as fast and as shifty as it gets, and played two seasons with his new quarterback while in Tuscaloosa.
The built-in chemistry between the former Crimson Tide products will be a huge benefit to the development of this offense. Tagovailoa has some serious weaponry now.
Reports out of camp are glowing
Tagovailoa has had a great training camp. There were reports early that he had a bad practice with six touchdowns, but that’s exactly what training camp is for. Miami wants to see him taking more chances, and he’s been doing exactly that. Make your mistakes in practice, then learn and adjust.
“He’s letting it fly this year. He was last year, but he looks a little more comfortable back there, making some tough throws, putting it in the hole, leading the receivers,” cornerback Nik Needham told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
“He’s always had accuracy. That was never a problem. He always had the zip, always had the power. I just believe it’s that year-two jump that everyone needs to make from their rookie year. And obviously the type of offense. Last year, I even noticed his playbook was condensed to slants and bubbles. They really wouldn’t let him show his arm. Now seeing training camp, a lot more deep routes, they’re allowing him the opportunity to throw it deep. That’s what we need,” safety Eric Rowe said.
Things are opening up from a playbook and understanding perspective for Tagovailoa going into his second year. Add in some explosive weapons, and there’s reason for excitement.
The Dolphins are a playoff-caliber team
Last year, the Dolphins narrowly missed the playoffs in Tagovailoa’s rookie season, finishing second in the AFC East with a 10-6 record. Nobody expected them to make such a quick turn around.
Their success was predicated on their opportunistic defense, which finished the year allowing 21.1 points per game, the sixth best clip in the NFL. Cornerback Xavien Howard had a massive season, reeling in 10 interceptions, which led the league.
With the defense in place and a potential leap in quarterback play from Tagovailoa, the Dolphins are an intriguing team that could make things interesting in their division.