Another week and another Dolphins dub. Welcome back to the All-22 review as this week dive into what Tua Tagovailoa had to offer in the Dolphins’ fifth straight win, which came against the lowly Houston Texans. 

Miami led this game by 30 in the first half, and Tagovailoa didn’t even play in the second half. He sat on the bench after going 22-of-36 for 299 yards and one touchdown. 

Tagovailoa’s performance in this game was fine, but the Texans barely put up a fight until he was out of the game, and there were also some plays he missed early in the game. 

Where does this rank among his performances this season? Let’s find out. 

The Good Stuff 

Plays like this are becoming a little commonplace in this article, and that’s nice to see. One of the areas where Tagovailoa’s game has gotten worse since Alabama is creating outside the pocket. 

Tagovailoa is still good at avoiding pressure but creating explosive plays in those scenarios still eludes him. This could be due to both injuries or a lack of natural arm/running talent. 

However, we’ve seen an uptick of plays like this during the 2022 season where Tagovailoa is extending plays, specifically inside of the red zone. 

Tagovailoa does a tremendous job of reading both sides of the field without forcing the ball. Houston covers up the spot concept at the bottom of the screen and the corner + speed out at the top. 

He doesn’t panic, avoids some backside pressure while keeping his eyes down the field, and creates this touchdown with the help of tight end Durham Smythe. 

Tagovailoa’s ability to extend plays in the red zone is a real tool he’s becoming better at this season. The key now is to try and get that to show up in other parts of the field. Although we’re skeptical that’s possible, he deserves credit for plays like this, and it’s still worth monitoring. 

This play stands out for a real simple reason. It just shows how unworldly comfortable Tagovailoa is in this offense. Something Benjamin Solak of The Ringer pointed out in his YouTube show “The Play Sheet” is the Dolphins are allowing Tagovailoa to throw to open space, not just his receivers. 

This is a common concept used in the Air Raid offense, which is a popular college system. Mike Leech (current Mississippi State coach) is probably the name you’ll recognize the most with that offense. 

Essentially, it allows the quarterback to just throw the ball where he knows his receiver is going to be. When you have a quarterback with really good anticipation skills, like Tagovailoa, it makes things even more explosive. 

Back to this play. The Dolphins are running a classic play-action boot with a vertical clearing route and an underneath cross. 

Hill wins immediately and gets help from the vertical route clearing so much space. However, the Texans’ edge defender does a good job of staying home and pressuring Tagovailoa. 

This forces Tagovailoa to stop on a dime, flip his hips, and just float this ball out to Hill. He can do this because he’s not throwing the ball at Hill. He’s throwing it to open grass and where Hill is supposed to end up. 

It doesn’t look like much, but this play displays mastery of the offense and an increase in confidence—the theme of this article this season— because last year, Tagovailoa takes a sack on this play. 

If you read this article every week, then you know we’re a sucker for impressive touch throws. This one is more impressive because this isn’t the throw Tagovailoa wanted on this play, but he made it work anyway. 

Waddle’s route is designed to take him beyond those pesky underneath zone defenders as he moves across the field. However, Tagovailoa feels pressure coming from his right side, forcing him to get rid of the ball before Waddle can clear those underneath defenders. 

That’s no problem though as Tagovailoa does a phenomenal job of dropping the ball in between the Texans’ underneath and over-the-top zone defenders. It’s a tough catch for Waddle, who couldn’t make the play, but this is a good throw from Tagovailoa. 

We mentioned earlier how Tagovailoa needs to create more explosive plays while avoiding sacks in the pocket. Well while this isn’t quite an explosive play, it’s still a good one. 

Again, Tagovailoa has to deal with almost immediate pressure off his right side, but this time the left side is also collapsing pretty fast. 

He doesn’t panic as he makes an awkward but effective throw to Cedrick Wilson to keep the chains moving. Tagovailoa has performed much better under pressure this season (he’s also been under less pressure). 

That last note might change this week though. Terron Armstead’s status is up in the air, and the 49ers’ pass rush is deadly. Tagovailoa will have to make a couple of small plays like this one to beat the 49ers. 

 The Meh Stuff

Throws like this are why we’ve decided to include a “meh” category in the first place. This throw isn’t technically bad. 

The Dolphins use this formation and pre-snap motion a lot. They love to run wheels, deep curls, speed outs, and even posts with a pre-snap motion to the trips side. The idea is to distract the underneath defenders with the motion and some underneath route (here it’s Waddle’s spot route) and then sneak deeper concepts behind them. 

It works to perfection on this play as the Texans are in a two-high look, and the concept opens up the middle of the field for Hill’s crossing route. 

It’s important to pause the video at the six-second mark. At that point, Tagovailoa released the ball. Look at the space Hill has in the middle of the field. He couldn’t be more wide open. 

Now, watch the rest of the play. Tagovailoa’s pass takes way too long to arrive, allowing safety Jalen Pitre to range over and dislodge the ball. This throw isn’t bad, and it’s definitely a good read.

With that said, this is where Tagovailoa’s lack of arm strength shows up at times. This throw needed a lot more juice. Pitre makes a nice play, but a throw with some more velocity would’ve been an easy completion. 

The Bad Stuff 

Sometimes watching film is difficult because it’s hard to discern what the players on the field are seeing without having all the same information they have. 

This play is one of those times where it’s unclear what happened. There’s no version of this throw or decision that makes sense, based on the information we have, on Tagovailoa’s part. 

Here’s our best theory. 

Tagovailoa made up his mind pre-snap that he was going to Mike Gesicki over the middle. He trusted his guy to make a play. It’s something he’s had success with this season, especially in the red zone. 

Think about the Waddle touchdown vs. Baltimore or the River Cracraft touchdown vs. Buffalo. All tight windows into the red zone where his guy caught the ball right in front of a defender. 

That would be the same situation here with Gesicki and Pitre. There’s one key difference. Tagovailoa doesn’t step into this throw the way he wanted. He just kinda snaps his hips real quick and lets the ball float a bit. 

Thus, the ball just doesn’t have the requisite juice to fit a tight window like this. He gets lucky Pitre drops this pass, but this wasn’t a good decision or throw regardless of the outcome. 

This play is truly on the border of “meh” and “bad,” but we’ve decided to slot it here after some internal debate. 

Firstly, this play call is a beautiful cover-three beater that works perfectly. The deep corner route at the bottom of the screen clears out the zone corner, allowing the crossing route from the opposite side of the field to enter the vacated space. What’s even better about this play is Hill is set up to immediately block his man, springing the crosser for a touchdown. 

There’s just one problem. Tagovailoa’s pass forces the receiver to the ground, ending any chance for them to turn upfield and create YAC. 

Much has been made about the Dolphins’ lack of YAC. Some have used it as a pro-Tua argument and others have used it as an anti-Tua argument. 

Realistically, it’s a bit of both. The pro side is it’s impressive how efficiently Tagovailoa is running the offense with such little YAC. The con side is the offense is designed that way to maximize a lot of Tagovailoa’s other strengths while limiting his weaknesses. 

Essentially, the Dolphins are trading YAC for maximizing Tagovailoa’s anticipation to generate explosive plays. 

Miami fans and the team should take that trade all day, but this throw is just simply a missed opportunity for an even better play, thus it lands in the bad column. 


Tagovailoa’s performance was just okay against the Texans. He made some nice plays and took advantage of a bad Texans’ defense, but he made a decent amount of mistakes too. 

There’s not really a big-picture takeaway from this game like there was last week, so we’ll introduce a new part of this article. Actually ranking Tagovailoa’s performances this season. The sample size is big enough now. 

These rankings are based on the film. Not stats. Not QB wins. Not whatever the hell Emmanuel Acho is ranting about. Just the film. Additionally, the games are not ranked in their respective tier.

Tier 1 is the best. Tier 1.5 is good but just a couple of mistakes that kept it from being “great.” Tier 2 is solid, quality play but nothing special. Tier 3 is “below average.” Tier 4 is “dreadfully bad.”

Tier 1: Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns 

Tier 1.5: Baltimore Ravens (this is tough because he was basically a different player after halftime)

Tier 2: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans

Tier 3: Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots 

Tier 4: None

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