Well, Miami was victorious again this past weekend and the outcry of support for Tua Tagovailoa’s MVP campaign has only increased. 

Dolphins’ Twitter felt much like a warzone this week despite the team’s 7-3 first-place record because of some debate centered around Tagovailoa. Like we do every week in this column, we’ll attempt to cut through the noise and provide some mostly unbiased analysis of Miami’s quarterback. 

The short version of this week’s analysis? This was Tagovailoa’s most impressive game on the All-22 since his performance against the Buffalo Bills in Miami. 

Let’s dive into it. 

The Good Stuff 

Starting with this play is like starting dinner with dessert. This was the best throw Tagovailoa made during Sunday’s matchup with the Browns, and it’s up there with some of his best career throws—something we’ve said a lot more this season. 

The key moment in this play happens so quickly it’s hard to catch unless you’re looking for it. Watch the Browns cornerback at the bottom of the screen and pay attention to his eyes. 

The Browns have zone coverage on this snap, so he uses a zone turn right after the snap, but his eyes are keyed on Tyreek Hill in the slot. This causes him a slight moment of hesitation, which gives Trent Sherfield a chance to beat him to the corner of the endzone. 

Tagovailoa is reading that outside cornerback. If he hesitates for a second to not carry Sherfield, Tagovailoa is supposed to let the ball fly, and that’s exactly what he does. 

The placement and timing on this pass are just perfect. It’s right over the cornerback’s head and thrown so early in the rep, nobody else could’ve gotten into the picture. It shows how impressive Tagovailoa’s processing speed can be when he trusts what he’s seeing pre-and-post-snap. 

The Browns’ cornerback doesn’t even play this overly poorly. Being concerned about Hill and not Sherfield off the snap is a completely logical thought process. And it’s not like he bit super hard on Hill’s route. It was just a moment of hesitation, but that’s all Tagovailoa needed to see. 

This is another throw that stood out because of the anticipation and trust required to make complete this pass to Hill. Last year, Tagovailoa takes a sack on this play or throws out of bounds. Zero percent chance he floats this ball out and trusts himself and wide receiver to make a play. 

However, 2022 is different. Tagovailoa has trust in himself and the trust of Hill. This is a simple deep-out route from Hill while the Browns bring a small blitz from Tagovailoa’s right side. 

The blitz creates some pressure, although it’s actually picked up fairly well from the offensive line and running back Jeff Wilson. However, they weren’t going to hold for long, so Tagovailoa lets the ball leave his hands exceptionally early. 

Knowing he’d likely surprise Hill if he threw a fastball, he put some air under the ball, allowing Hill to work back to the pass and make a routine catch. Again, anticipation, trust, and accuracy are the stars here. 

This throw had to be included for all of the obvious reasons we’ve covered already. This is another precise pass into a tight window that Tagovailoa threads thanks to high-level placement. 

Out routes don’t get thrown better than this independent of arm talent. Again, the Cleveland defender isn’t in a bad spot here Tagovailoa just makes him wrong. 

However, the main reason this throw warrants discussion is because it continues a conversation we started last week about the difference between the limitations of arm strength and the inconsistency of arm strength. 

Tagovailoa got a lot of flack for underthrowing several passes against the Bears. While that overall point wasn’t wrong, the conversation it created was. That conversation divulged into whether or not Tagovailoa has a strong arm. However, those throws were the wrong ones to center that debate around. 

Tagovailoa can make those throws as evidenced by this out route against the Browns, which required more arm strength than the throws he missed against the Bears. Tagovailoa has limitations on his arm. We aren’t denying that. 

But, he’s perfectly capable of making some of the underthrows he made this season. He just needs to find some consistency. 

One of the things we highlighted this offseason as a potential area of improvement for Tagovailoa was creating more explosive plays out of structure when under pressure. 

Tagovailoa is great at avoiding sacks, but he’s not the best at making defenses pay with a big play when he does. One of the main reasons for that last season was his propensity to drop his eyes to the rush too quickly. 

However, he’s been under less pressure this season — Miami’s offensive line isn’t bad folks — so he seems more willing to keep his eyes downfield while under pressure as evidenced by the play above. 

There’s nothing overly special about the throw, and it’s a bread-and-butter Mike McDaniel concept. However, Tagovailoa will eventually face real pressure in critical games, forcing him to step up and make confident throws like this one. 

The Meh Stuff 

This category is quickly becoming housing for this exact type of throw. This is an underthrown pass. No two ways about it.

However, Tagovailoa lets this ball fly from his own 16-yard line and it lands at the Browns’ 30, which is roughly 55 yards give or take a couple of yards. That’s pretty far and the placement on the throw is pretty solid. 

Again, it’s nice to see Miami and Tagovailoa show teams they’re willing to push the ball down the field like this. However, at some point there needs to be a tad more consistency in how many they actually complete. 

For now, it stays in the “meh” category, but let’s keep an eye on these truly deep throws and see how it develops. 

The Bad Stuff

This one cracks the “bad” category because it’s a super conservative read that makes a gutsy play call from McDaniel on Miami’s opening series go to waste. 

The route concept Hill and Waddle run at the bottom of the screen is called “scissors.” Basically, they run vertically for roughly 20 before cutting away from each other in what ends up looking like scissors if drawn out. 

This concept is usually paired with play-action like it is here. However, what McDaniel does that is a little different is use motion to hide this possibility from the defense. It gives Hill—the fastest player in the NFL—a running start into a difficult-to-defend concept. 

The Browns are in a three-high look, and Hill completely turns around the middle of the field defender. That should be Tagovailoa’s indication to let this pass fly down the field. 

Instead, he takes the checkdown. Pressure is not an excuse here because there is none. McDaniel drew up a beauty, and Tagovailoa didn’t have an aggressive enough mentality on this play. 

It’s certainly not the end of the world, but if Miami comes back to this concept, Tagovailoa should take the deep shot next time. 

This throw is pretty easy to explain away, but it’s still bad. Tagovailoa looks like he’s trying to throw the ball away, but he doesn’t get quite enough juice on it and almost puts it in harm’s way. 

He had a bad habit of doing this last season and early in this season, so it’s always something that comes up on our radar when it happens. This isn’t to say Tagovailoa is suddenly going back to that at all. 

But, it’s a bad throw and decision, so by our own rules, it has to end up in this category. 


Tagovailoa was quite impressive against the Browns. This game included some tight window throws and elite-level anticipation, at times.

The two bad throws were a tad nit-picky and ultimately didn’t burn the Dolphins, which is where any quarterback wants to be. Bad throws and missed deep shots happen, but if they come back to haunt you it means more. Tagovailoa’s didn’t haunt Miami on Sunday.

Tagovailoa has proven to be a “good” quarterback this season and during these last three games. We had him slated as a slightly “below-average” quarterback who had a “good” quarterback ceiling this offseason. 

Those terms are general because they mean different things to different people. All this to say, Tagovailoa is currently performing at his projected ceiling as a quarterback. 

The next step in his evolution is to prove he can push beyond that. Right now, Miami is shredding defenses as teams struggle to grapple with what Miami’s speed can do. 

However, defenses will figure it out. They always do. A counterpunch will come. It came for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs last season, but they figured it out. That’s one of the many reasons Mahomes is special. 

It came for Russell Wilson a couple of years ago—teams figured out he refuses to use the middle of the field—and his career has been in decline mode ever since with a steep fall off this season. 

How Tagovailoa reacts and responds to this eventual counterpunch will define whether he can push past his ceiling. It’s part of what separates the “good” quarterbacks from the “great” ones. 

It might come next week, next month, or even next year, but it will happen at some point. We’re not trying to nit-pick or hold this against him. Instead, we’re trying to establish just how high the standard is for elite quarterback play. 

It’s easy to get caught up in a three-game sample size, but quarterback evaluation goes way beyond that. 

For right now, the Dolphins are enjoying some of the most efficient quarterback play they’ve experienced since Dan Marino’s retirement, and there’s no reason it can’t carry them to a deep playoff run. 

Tagovailoa is a good NFL quarterback, and that’s good enough regardless of the eventual counterpunch. 

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