A Strong Start for Tua Tagovailoa

The Dolphins have done a great job of helping out Tua Tagovailoa during his first two starts, providing 3 non-offensive touchdowns. That’s a great way to ease your rookie quarterback into his NFL career. The approach that Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey has taken with the passing game has also been geared towards helping Tagovailoa get comfortable by using quick throws and simple/defined reads. All of that help aside, Miami’s two scoring drives in the 4th quarter to beat the Cardinals gave us a glimpse of Tua’s upside.

Trailing 31-24 and facing a 3rd-and-9 from the shadow of his own goalposts, Tua made his best throw of the game. Out of their trips formation to the right, Miami was running a curl-curl-flat combination.

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

With the Cardinals playing 3-under 3-deep and the inside curl route pinning the hook-curl defender (in yellow), Tua could focus on the outside.

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

Before he got to the top of his drop, Tua saw that the curl-flat defender was attacking the flat route. He knew he had DeVante Parker on the outside curl as long as he got the ball out quickly before cornerback Patrick Peterson could make a play on the ball. This is where anticipation is so important. Look at where Parker was in his route when Tua had just started his throwing motion.

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass


Just a split-second slower and Peterson likely has a pick-6. Tua’s anticipation and quick release made this play.

From the end zone angle, you can also see that Tua didn’t flinch despite a free rusher flashing in front of him.


That was a big-time throw that propelled the Dolphins to an eventual game-tying touchdown.

On the rest of the drive, we saw more of the traits that made Tua the 5th overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. Below was a 3rd-and-4.


Good escapability there by Tua (#analysis).

Two plays later, Miami went with play-action on 1st down. Remember what I said above about simple and defined reads? Play-action is a great way to do that and let a quarterback’s talent take over. Here, you can again see Tua fit an accurate ball into a tight window, largely because of his ability to throw quickly with timing and anticipation.


Two plays later, Tua used his legs and athleticism to do more things you can’t teach.


Get down young man…you already had the first down long before taking that hit.

Miami tied the game on the very next play.

On the Dolphins’ game-winning drive, Tua showed more of the same. This seemingly nondescript 3rd-down completion put the Dolphins in field-goal range. Again, you see the quick drop/release, anticipation, and an accurate throw.


When it comes to throwing the ball, Tua isn’t flashy. He doesn’t have a power arm. But he possesses some of the more important skills it takes to play the position effectively, as highlighted above. I’d like to see how he does as the Dolphins expand their playbook and give him fewer defined reads. Tua is good in that quick passing game, but can he hang in the pocket, scan the field, move from read to read and drive the ball down the field late in the play? He’ll need to as defenses start to get a better feel for how the Dolphins are using him. The early returns are positive, though.

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