Tua Tagovailoa went nuclear Sunday, tying the Miami Dolphins’ franchise record with six touchdown passes in the team’s 42-38 come-from-behind victory against the Baltimore Ravens. It was the type of performance that changes perceptions — about his team’s chances to compete and the outlook for Tagovailoa going forward.
Is Tua Tagovailoa’s fast start sustainable?
Tua’s insane stat line — 36 of 50 for 469 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions — was equal parts amazing and unexpected. He threw for over 100 yards more than he had ever had before in an NFL game.
The six touchdowns eclipsed his career high by two. He set a new personal best in passer rating (124.1) despite throwing two interceptions. And his yards per attempt (9.4) was the most in any game he both started and finished.
As a result, Tagovailoa entered Monday night’s games first in passing (369.5), second in QBR (85.7), third in yards per pass (8.9) and EPA per play (.357), fourth in passer rating (116.5), and seventh in completion percentage over expectation (5).
Those are MVP-caliber numbers. So to ask if that level is sustainable is probably a little unfair.
But considering he operates in one of the five best offensive schemes in football and arguably has the best set of weapons in football (Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki, Raheem Mostert, and Chase Edmonds), there’s no reason to believe Tua won’t continue to put up big numbers. — Adam Beasley, PFN NFL Director
I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but in the fantasy football streets, there seems to be a deafening silence from those who said Tua couldn’t have big games or lead an explosive offense.
The stats from Sunday’s game are bonkers and well-documented. It’s also likely a massive outlier and probably the best game he will ever have. But no one can ever take this one from him. Certainly, the score helped. Being down 35-14 removes a ton of pages from the playbook. For Miami, it oddly almost helped them. Mike McDaniel got aggressive and trusted Tua to make the right reads and try to make it a respectable game. I’d say he did more than just that.
What Sunday did was highlight the potency of this offense. Miami built this offense with the idea of getting players in space and letting the production come after the ball was in their hands, just like what we see in San Francisco. It just so happens they have two of the most dangerous players at doing this on the same team.
Waddle and Hill together are unfair, especially when McDaniel gets pre-snap motion involved, as it quickly confuses the defense because, from the snap, Tua is getting the ball into their hands as fast as possible. But that’s not to say Tua didn’t take risks or deep shots.
In fact, this was the first game in Tagovailoa’s career with multiple deep TD passes (20+ air yards). On passes of 15+ yards, Tua was 6 of 8 with three touchdowns and a pick. Two of those were deep balls to Hill, one of which traveled 55.5 air yards, the second longest of the week behind Joe Flacco (56).
Hill and Waddle really did what they have been doing all year. Hill averaged 6.1 yac/rec after 5.3 in Week 1, and Waddle had the exact same 7.8 yac/rec in Week 2 as he did in the opener. The difference was volume and Tua taking a few more shots vertically against Baltimore.
To me, all Sunday did was validate the explosiveness of this offense. The plays we saw in Week 2 are a missed arm tackle away from happening on every target, and I don’t know if any other team in the NFL can claim the same upside. It’s also why both Waddle and Hill are must-starts every week. Even though I could consider Waddle a sell-high candidate for fantasy, any team with him either on it has a puncher’s chance every week.
Based on what he’s asked to do, his skills, the offense, and the surrounding talent, Tua can be a QB1 any given week. I would view him as a high-end QB2 for the rest of the season but will move him slightly lower in Week 3 as they face the Buffalo Bills and their No. 1 rated defense. But now we know that we could be in for a show anytime the whistle blows. That’s worth the price of admission on its own. — Tommy Garrett, PFN Senior Fantasy Analyst
How Tua’s improved play impacts Dolphins’ betting odds
These two things can be true: Miami’s 2-0 start is unexpected, and also not surprising. As we wrote this summer in our AFC East division winners predictions article, “Tagovailoa should take at least one big step forward as a reliable NFL starter, and his exceptional receiving corps will keep them in more games. Consider that it took several weeks last season before Miami committed to Jaylen Waddle as their No. 1 WR. Soon after, they went on a torrid winning streak.”
In addition to having one of the best WR tandems in the game, Tagovailoa also has a much-improved backfield versus last year’s basement-level production. A healthy Raheem Mostert might be the unsung hero, as he can eat up yards on the ground and through the air. His 3.3 yards before contact is 21st in the league amongst running backs and is 1.1 yards higher than Miami’s best YBC RB last season.
Why does this matter? Because the harder it is for defenses to contain Tagovailoa through the air, the higher the upside for the backfield.
This is the most completed Dolphins team in years. Tagovailoa showed Sunday that they have the firepower to strike back quickly on offense and the defense (and coaching prowess) to adjust against one of the league’s most dynamic offenses. While there’s still much to prove, Miami’s postseason odds appear significantly more favorable now than they did only a few days ago. — BJ Rudell, PFN Betting Director
How Tagovailoa’s big day could impact Miami’s 2023 NFL Draft plans
There’s no bigger implication for the emergence of Tua Tagovailoa than the NFL draft implication. McDaniel and the Dolphins’ staff rightfully gave Tua full confidence as QB1 through the offseason. But nationally, there was a sense of uncertainty — a sense that Tua might be exposed in another full season of football as a replaceable starting QB.
One fantastic performance against the Ravens isn’t going to quiet all the doubters right away. And there are still factual, objective statements to make about Tua’s ceiling. He’s not the most athletic signal-caller, and he doesn’t have a great arm. But while physical freaks and rocket-armed passers generate the most appeal in the modern NFL, the most important trait for an NFL QB remains being able to operate the offense and produce with the playmakers given. Tua did that on Sunday afternoon against Baltimore, and that’s all McDaniel needs him to do.
Tua has a wealth of weapons to utilize in the Dolphins’ offense — weapons that play off of each other extremely well and put defenses in a bind. And for a large part of Miami’s comeback win, Tua was a mere distributor, dishing the ball to his weapons as different spots opened on the field for Hill and Waddle. But we also saw Tua willing to test deep coverage and take shots when they were available. If Tagovailoa can maintain that decisiveness and awareness in the pocket, then he can easily keep this production going.
If he’s able to do so, a big question gets answered for Miami: Is Tua the guy? That’s something he might not prove definitively in 2022. But all Tua has to do is operate within the system — a system that’s been masterfully constructed by McDaniel — and maximize his weapons with accurate targets, quick processing, and sound decision-making. If he can do that, Tua can buy himself a few more years to fully prove himself.
The door isn’t completely shut on 2023 NFL Draft QB talk for Miami, but Tua can slam it closed by remaining a consistent, functional point guard for Miami’s offense, and allowing them to stay competitive in the AFC playoff race.
The comeback against Baltimore had to be a big confidence booster for Tua, who was at times under strain as the team’s QB with Brian Flores. That newfound confidence could be a catalyst for Tagovailoa, to morph him into the consistent high-level operator he was drafted to be. — Ian Cummings, PFN NFL Draft Analyst