Like many Miami Dolphins fans, I watched with great interest the first preseason game against the Chicago Bears to see how the team would look after adding new players on offense and defense and watch how our 2nd-year players would fair. In particular, I watched quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to see how he would look. Tagovailoa had an up and down rookie season despite having a 6-3 record. Still, after getting benched twice in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick, many wondered if the Dolphins made the right choice at quarterback in Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa had a great college career at Alabama, and yes, he was surrounded by great talent at the best school in college football. Still, he always displayed great leadership, threw the ball with great anticipation and accuracy. He also had durability concerns and fractured his hip in his final year at Alabama. Still, the Dolphins clearly felt comfortable with the medical reports and progress in doing their due diligence. Tagovailoa didn’t look right last year really at all and was not 100%. Frankly, he shouldn’t have played at all last year, and I think head coach Brian Flores made a mistake benching Fitzpatrick with Tagovailoa when he clearly wasn’t ready to play physically, not even a year removed from his hip injury. He played well at times early, but teams adjusted to him, and Tagovailoa didn’t have an answer for other defenses. His mechanics weren’t good, and he wasn’t throwing with the accuracy and anticipation at Alabama consistently. At times, the offense struggled, but what made the move puzzling was why they made it when the offense was starting to click with Fitzpatrick? I think Tagovailoa should have been redshirting and learn from Fitzpatrick.
Now, if you want to say the Dolphins should have selected Justin Herbert instead of Tagovailoa, that’s fine. Still, I think the Dolphins made the right decision and will start to results this year after having a whole offseason to work on his mechanics, get in the weight room to add more muscle, and work with his receivers. Tagovailoa, on Saturday, looked like a completely different quarterback than he did his rookie season. He looked very comfortable leading the offense. He wasn’t perfect by any stretch as he threw an interception in the red zone after missing a receiver wide open going through his progressions which can get you beat, but the fact is every quarterback has made that mistake, and most get better with more reps. Other than that throw, I was encouraged by how Tagovailoa was in the pocket, feeling the pressure, his footwork was good, and he was throwing with the anticipation and accuracy I saw in college. On most of his throws, he put the ball where only the receiver could get it. His first pass to Adam Shaheen was a perfect example. Shaheen was covered well, but Tagovailoa found a spot to put the ball where only Shaheen could catch it. The pass was incomplete, but it was a throw that showed me the improvement he made. He also did a good job of feeling the pressure and stood in the pocket to make good throws down the field, like the 50-yard pass to Mike Gesicki, for example.
It’s only the first preseason game, but it’s a good start. It makes me encouraged moving forward, especially once he gets all of his receivers back. Tagovailoa knows it’s his team now and what his role is. He seems more confident and comfortable. This is an encouraging sign moving forward now; let’s see what he can do next week. It’s a marathon season, not a sprint. Tagovailoa isn’t going to be perfect, but seeing progress like Saturday is positive.