What will the Dolphins Look Like with Tua?
Tua Tagovailoa is officially the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. For fans like me, who have been on the Tank4Tua train for multiple years now, it feels like we have finally reached the peak of the mountain. Just like when Iron man snapped away Thanos we can finally rest. Or so it would seem.
But now is not the time to rest at all, in fact, the marathon has just begun. Anyone can draft the QB. It didn’t take much to realize Tua was an elite quarterback prospect. The real challenge comes with the development plan for these QBs. Step one of Tua’s plan, sit behind Ryan Fitzpatrick for six weeks, is already complete. I won’t get into how the Dolphins decided to make the decision and some of the things Ryan Fitzpatrick said afterward because I have a feeling I’ll make some of you upset.
Instead, I think our time would be better spent looking ahead to what might change and what we should expect from Tua when he takes the field against the Rams for his first start next week.
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What to Expect for Playcalling:
I think the biggest question mark I have about the switch from Fitzpatrick to Tua is how OC Chan Gailey changes things. Make no mistake about it he should be changing things now that Tua is the starter. He and Fitzpatrick could not be more different stylistically as quarterbacks.
Fitzpatrick thrived as a player will to test tight windows and throw the ball up to his 50/50 receivers. This meshed perfectly with Devante Parker, Preston Williams, and Mike Gesicki who also happen to be the Dolphins’ best playmakers.
Tua is capable of throwing the 50/50 ball but it is not a strength of his game coming from Alabama. Instead, Tua is much more of a timing thrower. He’s fantastic throwing the ball with anticipation, especially inside the numbers.
My guess is Miami will start to focus heavily on the RPO game. Tua took advantage of the RPO quite a bit in college and the slant route is probably one of his best throws. In 2018, Tua threw the ball on 51 percent of his RPOs, and the Alabama offense ranked first in the nation on those plays.
The Dolphins tried to use the RPO early in the season, but Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t efficient in those situations. This means Miami won’t be building a whole new offense this week just focusing on different portions of the playbook.
I think another two other concepts we will see more of with Tua as the starter are mesh and levels. Those were two more of his best concepts while in college. Again, both allow Tua to throw inside the numbers with anticipation and timing.
Tua excels at getting his guys the ball with green grass in front of them. In fact, I would wager the Dolphins YAC numbers improve just from having Tua at QB vs Fitzpatrick.
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As for the running game, I would imagine we see more inside zone concepts from the shotgun with Tua. Not only will this align better with what Tua did at Alabama, but I think it’ll align a little better with what Myles Gaskin did at Washington.
The Dolphins only rank 22nd in the NFL in Adjusted Line Yards and 24th in Power Success Rate, according to Football Outsiders. This tells me Miami might actually benefit from more zone concepts.
Speaking of the offensive line, let’s address the beef between the national media and Dolphins’ Twitter earlier this week. National media argued Miami shouldn’t have gone to Tua because their offensive line is bad.
To someone who doesn’t watch a lot of Dolphins’ football, I understand why it would be their take. Miami is infamous for poor offensive line play, especially the past couple of seasons. However, this season the line has improved greatly, despite what their PFF grades will tell you.
Are they perfect? Are they top of the league? Absolutely not. Are they good enough? Yes, sir. Miami’s adjusted sack rate is 6.3 percent which ranks 15th in the league. They are about middle of the pack, which I think is plenty good enough.
For reference, the Chargers rank 16th, and the Bengals rank 31st. Burrow has taken a beating, but clearly, things will not be as bad for Tua.
Miami can help things by getting the ball out of Tua’s hands quickly. This shouldn’t be a problem because, as the national media noted themselves, Fitzpatrick ranked towards the top of the league in getting the ball out quickly.
Tua will have some rookie moments where he holds the ball too long sometimes, but I don’t expect an insane drop-off. Tua was good pre-snap coming into the league and has had six weeks to sit and learn.
This is my best guess as to what Miami’s offense will look like with Tua. It’ll be quick, timing-based, and heavier zone run. Is this better than what we saw in the first six games? We will have to wait and see.