Dolphins fans have been chanting for Tua Tagovailoa for more than a year now and last week our dreams came true. The “Tank for Tua” season actually paid off and landed the coveted Crimson Tide signal-caller in South Beach. Tua has taken on this god-like status for a lot of Dolphins fans. But how good is he exactly? Even the best QBs have some holes in their game. 

So, I figured I would dive into his film and breakdown some of the plays that make Tua so special and some of the things he will have to improve on at the next level. Let’s get to know our new franchise QB a little bit better. 


First, let’s start with the simple stuff. Tua is one of the best throwers of slants and in-breaking I’ve ever scouted. What goes into throwing a good slant route? The most important thing is placement. The ideal slant route should allow the receiver to catch the ball, turn upfield, and make a big play. 

Tua hits Henry Ruggs III in stride here allowing him to use his 4.20 speed to break off a long touchdown. The Dolphins don’t have anyone with his kind of speed but players like Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson can certainly scoot. 

Alabama ran slants with RPOs a ton which is something I fully expect to see in Chan Gailey’s spread/ power-run offense. Another important part of this route is getting the timing right with your receiver. When slants are run against zone coverage you have to pick your spot and try to not lead the receiver into a defender. 

In the play above Tua fakes the handoff and then quickly identifies he has Ruggs in man coverage. Once he clears the defender in the flat, Tua lets it rip. This isn’t anything crazy impressive but it provides Tua a good base to build off of. 


A lot of casual fans just assume accuracy and placement are the same things. In a way they are, but placement is slightly different. For instance, in the play above Tua puts the ball high and outside on Najee Harris’ back shoulder. This throw is not only accurate but also perfectly placed. 

Back shoulder passes are one of the most translatable throws to the NFL, in my opinion. 

A throw can be accurate but lack good placement. Tua’s placement is almost always spot on when throwing to all parts of the field. One of the other things I love about the play above is Tua runs right, takes time to reset, and then throws back left. He doesn’t rush anything, and I love that. 

The next logical question is what an accurate pass with bad placement looks like. 


The throw you see above is accurate. It makes its way to Jerry Jeudy and is a catchable pass. However, the throw comes in on his inside shoulder. When throwing to the outside you want to stick the ball on the outside shoulder. This way you protect your self from getting intercepted, and you allow your receiver to turn upfield and make a play. 

I’m nitpicking a bit here but this play does raise a legitimate concern in Tua’s game. His arm is not that strong. His arm strength is fine and definitely checks the box for the NFL. However, there are some throws where receivers have to stop and wait for the ball. 

The play above is good coverage from the LSU DB but if you watch closely you can see Jeudy stop his momentum and wait for the ball. There are a number of plays on Tua’s film where this happens. It’s not a deal-breaker but it can come back to bite him sometimes. 

The key to success when you have an average arm is using touch and anticipation. Drew Brees is an obvious example of this. Brees’ arm is fine, but he wins in other ways. 


The throw above showcases some great touch and anticipation skills from Tua. First, Tua is forced to throw this ball over the head of an underneath defender while making sure the ball hits his receiver in stride. When you hear people talking about “throwing windows” and “NFL throws” they are talking about the play above. 

Second, he shows great anticipation on this throw. Tua knows he’s got the receiver from the slot coming across the middle and throws the ball well before the break in the route happens. He anticipated exactly when his receiver would get open and exactly where the open throwing window would be. That is the type of stuff the NFL will ask of him every single week, and Tua has shown he can handle those types of plays. It is the classic “throwing to a spot” instead of throwing to a receiver. 


While Tua’s anticipation skills are quite good he can make some mistakes. On this play, Tua is intercepted by fellow first-round pick Patrick Queen. This is a spectacular individual play by Queen but it’s also the type of play NFL LBs make so it’s worth looking at. 

Queen starts the play by tracking the receiver running underneath and then makes a great play to drop off and get in front of Tua’s throw to make the INT. This doesn’t happen a ton but sometimes Tua fails to see defenders make those adjustments. The same thing happened when he was intercepted in the 2018 CFP Championship Game on the opening drive against Clemson. 

It takes time to anticipate those things and sometimes defenders just make a good play as Queen did. Tua doesn’t have a ton of flaws which forces me to nitpick. NFL defenders do things like this way more often than college players do. Defense Coordinators will see this and try to set up more “trap coverages” like this where defenders drop off their receiver. Tua will have to learn how to identify them and beat them. 


INTs happen and a QBs ability to bounce back from those are important. The play above is the next series after Tua threw the opening drive pick-six I just mentioned. There isn’t a lot to breakdown on this play. Sometimes guys just drop dimes. Tua throws this ball with a nice arc and hits Jeudy in stride allowing him to break away and score. 

The throw comes in over the correct shoulder too preventing Jeudy from having to make any kind of adjustment in the air. It’s essentially a perfect throw and it came right after a bad decision that put his team behind. The kid is a gamer which isn’t something you can teach. 


The throw above might be one of the best ones in Tua’s film. This is, again, an NFL caliber throw, and it doesn’t get any better than this. Jeudy drops the pass but it is no fault of Tua’s. 

This throw travels a good 50 yards in the air and lands perfectly in the breadbasket. Even more impressively, if you pause the video and see when Tua lets this ball fly you will see he actually threw Jeudy open. Tua saw one on one coverage and then threw to a spot allowing Jeudy to run under the ball. 

This throw has it all: touch, anticipation, accuracy, and deep ball prowess. I could watch it on repeat for hours. 


I’ve raved about Tua a ton already, but I haven’t even gotten to what I consider his best trait. His pocket presence/ pocket management is so impressive. He has an innate feel for pressure and is able to slide away from defenders while keeping his eyes upfield to make throws. This is one of the main reasons Ryan Tannehill struggled. He lacked this trait.

On the play above, LSU sent a Blitzer from the right side, and Alabama was slanting their line the opposite way. The center got beat and the Blitzer was bearing down on Tua pretty quickly. He doesn’t panic and instead slides around with his eyes up and gets the ball out to Jeudy for a completion. 

He made this play on a bum ankle too. He’s mobile but not like Lamar Jackson or Russell Wilson. He’s closer to the Tom Brady mold where he just kinda slides around and picks his spots. This is an elite level trait of his and should serve him well right away. 


Tua is fantastic at avoiding pressure and also good at making big plays off-script. This is a trait becoming more and more important in the NFL thanks to players like Russell Wilson, DeShaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, and Carson Wentz. 

If I am being totally honest this was the throw that sold me on the “Tank for Tua” mantra. He drops back and the pocket starts to collapse pretty quickly. He finds an escape route out to his left, he keeps his eyes up while running, and then he drops an absolute dime down the sideline to Jeudy. 

A lot of times QBs will throw to someone whos momentum is carrying them to the sideline or standing still. Here Tua hits Jeudy in stride while he’s going upfield which is a much harder throw. The touch and accuracy he shows are just truly impressive. You can’t teach the throw above no matter how good of a coach you are.  

Dolphins fans, I think we found our guy.