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Buffalo Bills opponent preview: Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa

What’s the QB of the future in Miami look like so far?

Statistically there’s a lot to like about quarterback Tua Tagovailoa; Low interception rate, decent completion percentage. The Miami Dolphins seem to be moving right along in the win column with him under center as well. So it seems odd that the promising young rookie would be pulled in the middle of a game—more than once. There’s one stat that jumps out that just might answer that question: Yards per attempt. At 6.3 Y/A, Tagovailoa sits at number 32 in the league. Not only does that startling lack of efficiency suggest a problem in and of itself but it might also be artificially inflating his favorable stats. With Ryan Fitzpatrick not suiting up* against Buffalo this week, let’s take a look at Tagovailoa—who we should see for the full 60 minutes.

*Best wishes Fitz! Except, you know, against the Buffalo Bills of course.


Play 1

It was easy enough to find plays that dispel any notion of Tua Tagovailoa being incapable of throwing anything other than short passes. Whether it was the play call or his decision making, Tagovailoa commits to the throw immediately and puts it in a decent spot all things considered.

Play 2

This was actually overturned and Miami kept the ball but this throw...

Well I’m not really sure what to say about this throw. Other than “it’s bad.” My broader point is that Tagovailoa will create some head scratchers as you’d expect from a rookie.

Play 3

Along with the head scratchers you’ll also get some beauties. This is a very tight window that Tagovailoa manages to pull off.

Play 4

One of the things insinuated at the top is that perhaps Miami and Tagovailoa rely a lot on the short game, and that’s definitely true on this play. That doesn’t mean it’s always a quick throw with a predetermined target. You don’t get to see this too often, but Tagovailoa looks to have had a couple options he scanned for quickly and came back to his safety valve.

Play 5

Here’s a gutsy throw that’s placed well and shows faith in his teammate. It’s rewarded with a touchdown.

Play 6

I got some heat for talking about how I wanted to see Josh Allen’s ball placement improve in his first two years. If I’m willing to say it about MY quarterback, I’m sure gonna point it out for THEIR quarterback. This isn’t a head scratcher, it’s a bad throw well behind his target. This isn’t a solitary throw either. There’s a lowlight reel to be made if anyone wants to put the work in.

Play 7

I didn’t want to give the wrong impression above in Play 4. Many passes are quick and to seemingly predetermined targets, and this play is a great example. When the player is open, no problem. When they’re not? Possibly a big problem. Further, these quick passes often lead to short gains.

Play 8

Add it all up and we see why he’s been pulled a couple times to try and salvage a game. I don’t ever dare claim I know the play call, reads, best outcome etc. Still, watching the tape sometimes you can see some potential that was missed. There are a few in the “maybe” pile on this play but the circled one to the dump-off target is one I feel pretty safe saying QBs should be ready to use if, I dunno...they’re pressured right away. This is technically a completion and for positive yards. Well...yard.

To be fair to Tua Tagovailoa this isn’t an all-the-time thing. Short gains are pretty common obviously with the Y/A one of the lowest in the league. But this is a bit of an extreme example to show how all the flaws can converge into a messy play.


Summary

No shockers here really. Tua Tagovailoa plays like a rookie. Thriving on the quick passing game, when it’s shut down he starts to struggle. As of today, if the Bills are playing to win this week, they’re gaining an advantage being able to count on 60 minutes of the rookie. Next year could be a different story. There are enough building blocks for Miami fans to cross some fingers for his future.