Three years ago, NFL fanbases spearheaded the “Tank for Tua Tagovailoa” campaigns, hoping their sad franchises would position themselves to take the next highly anticipated quarterback who had a chance to be special to the next level.
After dominating the SEC at Alabama, Tagovailoa’s final college season didn’t go the way he wanted as he suffered a serious hip injury that ultimately ate away at his NFL draft readiness. When the 2020 NFL Draft rolled around, Tagovailoa didn’t become No. 1 overall, or second. In fact, he wasn’t even the first quarterback taken. That honor, of course, belonged to the top draft pick, Joe Burrow, who only became a superstar overnight.
Instead, Tagovailoa “slid” to fifth overall before the Miami Dolphins bought his potential. It didn’t help that Justin Herbert only went a pick later to the Los Angeles Chargers.
While the NFL has seen Burrow and Herbert become the top ten quarterbacks, Tagovailoa hasn’t even proven himself to be among the top 20 starters in the NFL.
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But the Dolphins have put together a roster they believe is ready to compete right now. After missing the playoffs a season ago, much of that growth and development should come from the 24-year-old Tagovailoa. If he can’t show he’s capable of leading a top-20 offensive unit, Tagovailoa’s swimming days with the ‘Phins may not last into a fourth year.
However, many NFL executives don’t believe those dark thoughts will come into play. Not this season or soon. Instead, they believe Tagovailoa is on course for a stellar season, which could even result in the signalman winning Most Improved Player honors with a solid season.
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Tua Tagovailoa could be one of the NFL’s most improved players in 2022
It’s not that Tagovailoa has necessarily been bad for the Dolphins in his 21 NFL starts, but he’s nowhere near Burrow or Herbert status. Some think it’s just the product of what the franchise put around him and who he had to throw at.
Those excuses disappear after adding Tyreek Hill to a core that also includes Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki, and having a real bookend in Terron Armstead should give him more time to break down the defense.
Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus had the chance to gather information from several current and former NFL leaderslike Rick Spielman, and they all seem to agree that Tagovailoa’s greatest opportunity to thrive is finally within his grasp.
Here’s what Spielman specifically had to say about how Tua could be set for a better campaign in 2022.
So by simplifying the attack, asking Tagovailoa to make quicker decisions as he works to get the ball back into the hands of his playmakers, Tagovailoa won’t be asked to do the same vertically. Still, opportunities for Hill to burn defenders deep will always be there after working the shortest, most underhand routes early on. As defenders try to prevent fast play, Waddle and Hill’s deep speed may be able to catch cover off guard, as if their speed wasn’t deadly enough.
Another NFL executive suggested Tagovailoa is “a bit better than most people think”, and compared him favorably to a Jimmy Garoppolo type as a quarterback capable of leading a team deep in the playoffs.
An NFC analysis manager went so far as to say he thinks “Tagovailoa’s expectations should be higher with a better supporting cast and a scheme that prioritizes shorter/faster passing play and to RPOs”. Yet they also underscored how important it is for Tagovailoa to be able to connect on deep balls to Hill and others when they are around.
In the end, he will be to be the biggest season of Tagovailoa’s young career. How he ultimately handles this could make or break Miami’s season. By all appearances, everyone in the organization strongly believes in the former Crimson Tide QB, and he has his supporters in the league as well. Now is the time to prove it.
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