It’s now or never for Tua Tagovailoa in Miami after this Dolphins offseason

Tua Tagovailoa he was once one of the most sought-after quarterback prospects in the NFL. In his first two years at the University of Alabama, Tagovailoa came off the bench to win a national championship, then led the Crimson Tide back to the title game the following year. Despite a hip injury when he was a junior, the miami dolphins he still took Tagovailoa fifth overall.

His football future looks much different entering the third year of his NFL career than it does in the third year of his college career.

Tagovailoa’s first two seasons with the Dolphins have not been as promising. This offseason, Miami remade its support system by trading for a wide receiver. Tyreek Hilloffensive lineman signing Lump Farm and hiring head coach Mike McDaniel, a disciple of Kyle Shanahan.

So now, Tagovailoa has reached a tipping point. He is an unquestioned NFL starter, but the body of work has raised questions rather than guarantees.

Dolphins teammates point out Tua Tagovailoa entering now-or-never season

While Tagovailoa’s starting status is now solidified, his position under center seemed tenuous all of last year. The Dolphins still have plenty of escape routes if they don’t make a big step forward this season.

They reportedly tried to lure a couple of big-name quarterbacks to Miami, either courting deshaun watson throughout the 2021 season or manipulate Tom Brady since 2019, for which the NFL just punished them.

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Then there’s the draft class of 2023, which is loaded at the top with quarterbacks like Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud. Despite losing a first-round pick in the Brady tampering investigation, the Dolphins still own the first-round pick from the San Francisco 49ers after the trade that resulted in the 49ers drafting Trey Lance two years ago.

Even Hill, a shameless supporter of Tagovailoahe agreed that this is probably the last year for Tagovailoa to prove whether or not he can make it in the NFL.

“You know, in the NFL they only give you, like, two or three years to be a successful quarterback, especially if you’re a first-round pick,” Hill said on his podcast this offseason. “And if you’re not successful after those years, then it’s ‘kick rocks, man.’ So basically they’re going to put Tua on it. So this is basically his last year, man, just to show people what he’s got.”

How the NFL sees Tagovailoa

Tua Tagovailoa is entering a Year 3 trial in his career with the Miami Dolphins.  (Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)

Tua Tagovailoa is entering a Year 3 trial in his career with the Miami Dolphins. (Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)

After two years in the league, it’s hard to tell whether Tagovailoa is trending up or stalling.

He didn’t enjoy a very successful rookie season, finding himself in and out of the lineup behind veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Then last season, he missed four games with a rib injury and ranked 18th in Yards Above Replacement (DYAR) metric adjusted by football outsiders defense. Tagovailoa completed 67.8 percent of his passes but threw for 2,653 yards, just over 200 per game, with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

His former varsity teammate Jalen Hurts, who was drafted 48 spots later and posted a similar TD-to-INT ratio last season, is entering a test campaign of his own. However, Hurts made the playoffs last season with the Philadelphia Eagles, playing the role of a more modern dual-threat rushing quarterback, while Tagovailoa has proven to be a prototypical pocket passer.

NFL coaches seem to be more optimistic about Hurts than about Tagovailoa. According to Mike Sando of The Athletic, who asked 50 NFL coaches and executives to place each starting quarterback in tiers, Hurts was assigned Tier 3 status compared to Tagovailoa, who was placed at Tier 4.

“(Tagovailoa) is being set up for success with a running game, defense, offensive line and then obviously impact players at skill positions,” an offensive coach said. “If there is ever a time for him to be successful, it is this season. What is success? Stay healthy all year and get your team to the playoffs.”

“He’s a guy I keep holding on to the edge of my chair when I watch him play,” added a quarterbacks coach. “I’m still rooting for him and I just hope he doesn’t implode. With Tyreek Hill and Terron Armstead and all the talent they have, there are no more excuses. He has to do it.”

What awaits Tagovailoa in 2022?

Tagovailoa’s main issue is his perceived arm strength, especially after the Dolphins’ social media team apparently heard the noise and tweeted a video of him throwing a questionable deep ball in May. Despite misgivings, Tagovailoa actually had the third highest DVOA of any quarterback last season on passes of more than 20 yards downfield, though only on 30 of those attempts.

That number is likely to grow with Hill, the NFL’s top deep-passing threat, added to an offense that already includes second-year wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. He addresses the larger question of how the Dolphins under McDaniel will use Tagovailoa. The new head coach promised to bring the 49ers zone-running scheme to Miami, which flexed its running back depth chart this offseason by adding Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel and Chase Edmonds, and built on things like pace and fast passes in the past.

So it looks like McDaniel will try to help mask any deep-ball deficiencies Tagovailoa may have with creative schemes. However, what comes next is entirely up to Tagovailoa.

As Hill pointed out, a quarterback’s third season is often his breakout year. Just look at two members of the class of 2018, Josh Allen and Sam Darnold. Both were viewed similarly heading into their third season in 2020, with Darnold even having some per-game statistical advantages over Allen.

But Allen made a huge leap in Year 3 after the Buffalo Bills traded wide receiver Stefon Diggs, while Darnold flopped with the New York Jets during his second season under Adam Gase and was traded to the Carolina Panthers the following season. short.

That is an example of the different possible trajectories for Tagovailoa. But at least the narrative around him has changed since college. He now wants to show that he can reach the level he once promised in 2022.

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