Tua Tagovailoa has yet to play a full NFL season and faces doubts about some of his physical skills, but the way the Miami Dolphins quarterback can run an offense and distribute the ball has some around the league willing to mention him among the best.
“He’s got very good timing, touch, anticipation and accuracy along with good pocket feel — he doesn’t have top mobility and power/arm strength, so there are some limitations,” an AFC executive told ESPN. “He’s a true point guard type who needs to get it out quickly and distribute to his playmakers, which he’s done a good job of.”
The comment was made as part of a survey done by ESPN to rank the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Tagovailoa was the last of five honorable mention players named, after a top-10 list with Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 1.
Last season was Tagovailoa’s first under head coach Mike McDaniel, and it turned out to be his best. He threw for 3,548 yards and 25 touchdowns, and the Dolphins were 3-0 before the 25-year-old suffered a concussion in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
After the Dolphins suffered two more losses without him, Tagovailoa came back to lead them to five straight wins, passing for at least 285 yards in four straight games.
“I thought the first six-seven weeks of the season last year, he could have been the MVP,” an NFL coordinator said. “I was impressed with his growth. Head injuries are complicated, but I like the direction he’s headed.”
The season ended in disappointing fashion with a 9-8 record and wild-card playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills. Tagovailoa missed the final two regular season games plus the playoff game because of another concussion.
However, the flashes he showed through the good times have pushed expectations through the roof. In their second season with McDaniel, the Dolphins are expected to be legitimate challengers for the AFC East championship, which they haven’t won since the 2008 season.
Tyreek Hill is so excited about the team’s potential that the wide receiver is telling people it gives him goosebumps and that a 2,000-yard receiving season for him and Super Bowl victory could be within reach.
The Dolphins obviously will need Tagovailoa at his best for any of that to happen. The ESPN quarterback rankings have division rivals Josh Allen of the Bills at No. 3 and Aaron Rodgers of the New York Jets at No. 4. Joe Burrow of the Bengals is at No. 2, and seven of the top 10 represent AFC teams.
Tagovailoa is doing everything he can to play a full 17-game slate, including adding jiu-jitsu to his training to help avoid injuries. If he can do that, and perform at the level he did last season, the Dolphins’ potential could indeed be spectacular.