Tua Tagovailoa and His All-World Receiver Tandem Just Sent a Terrifying Message to the Rest of the AFC
If Sunday’s scintillating performance was just the tip of the iceberg for Tua Tagovailoa, the rest of the AFC better prepare for an avalanche of deep bombs and big plays from a dangerous Miami Dolphins team that dropped 42 points on the Baltimore Ravens to move to 2-0.
Coming off a solid but ultimately unspectacular season opener against the New England Patriots, the third-year quarterback turned in the finest outing of his young career. Looking more like the player who looked like a future No. 1 overall pick at Alabama, Tagovailoa shredded Baltimore’s veteran-laden secondary to the tune of 469 passing yards and six touchdowns.
Most importantly, though, the southpaw signal-caller staged an epic comeback that included a stunning 28-point fourth quarter that allowed Miami to head home with a 42-38 victory.
Of course, Tagovailoa didn’t do it alone.
In a display of playmaking brilliance that speaks volumes about the Dolphins’ talent level at receiver, the dynamic duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle thoroughly torched a Ravens defense that held the New York Jets to just nine points in Week 1. Both speedsters finished with 11 receptions and two touchdown grabs, with the longtime Kansas City Chiefs star posting a game-high 190 yards while his younger teammate finished only 19 yards behind.
While Baltimore boasted two 100-yard receivers of its own, anyone who watched Sunday’s game could see which team possessed true blue-chip pass catchers. And as impressive as Lamar Jackson was in a losing effort, there’s no doubt Tagovailoa deserves tremendous praise for overcoming what seemed like an insurmountable deficit and leading his team to one of its biggest wins in years.
The scary part?
This is just the beginning.
While Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills certainly appear capable of running the table, it’s impossible to overlook the Dolphins as a viable Super Bowl contender. As the MVP favorite attempts to win a championship in his fifth NFL season, Tagovailoa is just scratching the surface of his potential. After all, the former Alabama standout has a new head coach, a new No. 1 receiver, and a new system to master.
And based on the first two weeks of the Mike McDaniel era, it’s obvious there’s a lot to be excited about if you’re a Dolphins fan. Meanwhile, fans of the other top contenders in the AFC should have significant concerns about facing a Miami team that hasn’t made a playoff appearance since 2016.
How exactly do defenses plan on slowing down Hill and Waddle? Even if you can corral the former, the latter possesses the explosive athleticism to turn an ordinary play into a touchdown (as shown in Week 1 against the Patriots). Having not one but two legitimate No. 1 WRs makes Miami incredibly difficult to game plan against, especially with a creative offensive mind like McDaniel running the show.
Plus, how can you not be excited about the possibility that Tua is actually the player he was before he suffered a catastrophic hip injury? Surrounded by an improved offensive line, top-flight receivers, and a rock-solid tight end, he has all the tools needed to succeed. Two games may be a small sample size, but the early results provide a glimpse at Miami’s frightening potential.
What will this team look like by midseason?
What about when December rolls around?
As long as injuries don’t take a toll, the Dolphins have a legitimate shot at challenging any AFC contender. Tagovailoa’s chemistry with both Hill and Waddle will only improve with time, as will the team’s grasp of McDaniel’s deep playbook.
If Miami is capable of scoring 42 points on the road in Week 2, would it really be a surprise if the team breaks the 50-point mark at least a handful of times? Hill remains an elite deep threat who can also carry the load. Meanwhile, Waddle continues to grow on a weekly basis, and he brings All-Pro upside as the No. 2 option behind his highly paid teammate.
Moving forward, the pressure is on Tua Tagovailoa’s shoulders to show the Ravens game wasn’t a fluke. However, with a supporting cast headlined by the Hill-Waddle tandem, expect more eye-popping performances from a player who entered the season with much to prove.
And if the Dolphins’ defense plays up to its potential, don’t be shocked if a team led by a rookie head coach and a quarterback who looked on the verge of being replaced by Deshaun Watson and Tom Brady makes some serious noise when the playoffs arrive.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference