Whether the entire Dolphins fan base believes in him or not, Miami selected Tagovailoa with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft (over Justin Herbert) with one goal in mind — obtaining a franchise quarterback.
It was a rocky rookie season for the Hawaiin-born quarterback. However, it appears Tagovailoa has already made great strides in one specific area for the Dolphins since.
Tua Tagovailoa had a near-dominant second preseason game
Tagovailoa struggled in the preseason opener against the Chicago Bears, and it didn’t help that it was Justin Fields‘ first game wearing an NFL jersey. Football fans all around the country were glued to their televisions to watch Fields play, while Tagovailoa’s only major highlight of the afternoon was an ill-advised interception in the end zone.
Not exactly the way you want to reintroduce yourself to Dolphins fans if you’re Tagovailoa.
Fast forward a week later to Miami’s second preseason game and things went significantly better for their starting quarterback. The coaching staff worked diligently to get the ball into Jaylen Waddle‘s hands (the team’s first-round wide receiver). Tagovailoa looked comfortable, hitting his wideouts in stride and maneuvering the pocket.
The second-year quarterback finished the game against the Atlanta Falcons 16-of-23 with 183 passing yards and one touchdown.
Play-calling was an issue last year that now appears fixed
The most notable issue that Tagovailoa was facing last season was his health and the Dolphins’ overall reluctance to name him the full-time starting quarterback.
He was still dealing with lingering hip pain from a nasty season-ending injury that he suffered during his final year at Alabama, and Dolphins head coach Brian Flores was playing cat and mouse with the starting QB job. Journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick began the year as the starter before being replaced by Tagovailoa at the midseason mark, only for Fitzpatrick to sub in multiple times down the stretch.
It was a weird situation that wasn’t doing Tagovailoa any favors during his first NFL season.
With that said, another significant issue that the Dolphins QB faced was regarding the playbook.
During a June press conference, Tagovailoa stated that he “didn’t actually know the playbook necessarily really, really good.” Weird comments from a starting quarterback, but comments that helps shine a light on why he struggled as a rookie and why 2021 should be a better year for the Dolphins young quarterback.
Tua Tagovailoa is crucial to the Miami Dolphins success in 2021
Circling back to his preseason performance against the Falcons, Tagovailoa looked noticeably more comfortable with the calls. He was identifying open receivers with ease and effortlessly getting them the ball. He even successfully worked in a few RPOs (run-pass options).
It’s only preseason, but Tagovailoa looked like a completely revamped quarterback compared to his rookie self. One can assume he spent some serious time this past offseason studying the playbook.
In 2021, the Dolphins are going to go as far as Tagovailoa takes them. The roster is strong but not “stacked” by any stretch of the imagination. Miami needs exceptional play at the quarterback position if they want to sneak into the postseason for the first time since 2016.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.