Well, folks, we’re back. That’s right, it’s year four of our weekly Tua Tagovailoa All-22 review. After four years of evaluating every single throw of Tagovailoa’s career, we finally have a new contender for his best game ever. 

Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers was an exciting 36-34 Dolphins win. Tagovailoa played exceptionally well. He was accurate, efficient, and resilient. Three things we already knew about his play. 

This game differs from the previous three seasons of tape because Tagovailoa showed a much higher ceiling — one that can truly get him into the elite tier of quarterback play. 

Tagovailoa was almost painfully consistent. What you saw is what you got. Sure, some moments were better than others, but generally, Tagovailoa has been the same player for the past three seasons: A quality but limited starting quarterback. 

Nothing is wrong with that (Miami hadn’t had one in like 20 years), but there was always room for more. Well, Tagovailoa showed more against the Chargers. 

Let’s dive in and see what the All-22 has to say. 

Tua All-22 vs. Chargers

Playing the Hits

Before we explore how Tagovailoa might have unlocked a new level, let’s revisit some of his classic strengths. The play above is what the kids call an absolute rip. 

There are a few things to watch on this play. For starters, pay attention to the Chargers’ safety at the bottom of the screen. Watch how far he backs up after the snap. All that space is generated because he’s afraid Tyreek Hill will run by him. 

Next, pay attention to where Hill is when Tagovailoa uncorks this pass. He’s ready to fire a good 10 yards before Hill gets into the throwing window. The Chargers’ sinking linebacker isn’t even in a bad spot to make a play on the ball. 

Tagovailoa’s anticipation makes it impossible for the LB to get into the throwing lane. This is A+, elite anticipation in the middle of the field. If throwing into the middle of the field was its own sport, nobody would be better than Tagovailoa and Detroit’s Jared Goff. 

We’ve become numb to seeing Tagovailoa drill these tight window throws in the middle of the field, but it’s important to remember just how good he is at it. 

Tagovailoa completed 16-of-21 passes in the center of the field beyond the line of scrimmage on Sunday. Those passes accounted for 282 yards and one touchdown. That’s pretty good. 


Another of Tagovailoa’s established strengths is his ability to move flat defenders with his eyes and hips. He’s been doing it his whole career, and the video above is an excellent example of what it looks like. 

This play is one of Miami’s classic pass concepts. They motion a man across the formation (Durham Smythe) and have one player in the flat (Smythe), one running an intermediate curl (Jaylen Waddle), and one running a glance route (Tyreek Hill). 

The Dolphins run this concept and ones like it probably close to 20-25 times a game. It’s their bread and butter. But nobody butters that bread quite like Tagovailoa. 

The conflict defender on this play ends up being the slot defender. At the snap, Tagovailoa gets his eyes and hips to the flat, holding that slot corner. That opens up a hole for Hill’s glance route, which Tagovailoa easily hits. 

Tagovailoa’s ability to do this consistently is essential to Miami’s offense. 

Plays like the one above are commonplace on Tagovailoa’s film. However, the one featured below isn’t. 

What separates this play from the others is that Tagovailoa actually passes up a safer throw to make a more aggressive one. Tagovailoa has Hill open on the initial stick route, but Tagovailoa wants more. 

He started his eyes to the flat, freezing that slot cornerback for just a second. But, it was enough time for him to deliver a strike between two defenders for the first down. 

Would a throw to a more open Hill have generated more yards with his speed? Maybe. However, this calculated aggression has been missing from Tagovailoa’s game. It was one of the reasons a lot of analysts were skeptical of him. 

This throw is a step in the right direction. 

Playing Outside the Box(Pocket) 

When talking about Tagovailoa’s performance against the Chargers, his play out of structure was by far the most impressive. The throw above is from the second quarter. 

Tagovailoa faces pressure, gets slapped in the helmet, escapes, and then delivers a strike to his third read, Braxton Berrios. He created a first down when the defense had them beat. That’s what makes elite quarterbacks elite. 

The defense wins, and it still doesn’t matter. 

Unlike eye manipulation, this isn’t Tagovailoa showing improvement on something that was already a strength. Tagovailoa was not a good player out of structure the past three seasons. 

His lack of arm talent showed up when he was forced to throw off-platform, especially on the run. This throw was an early sign something was different. 

The throw above is with 13:04 left in the fourth quarter and the Dolphins trailing 31-27. The Chargers twist their defensive lineman on both sides of the line. 

On Tagovailoa’s right, Joey Bosa ties up Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt, leading to basically a free rusher. On the left, the player crashing gets through before the looper. All of this leads to the pocket collapsing rather quickly. 

Last season, two things might’ve happened here. One, Tagovailoa takes a sack, and everyone laments the offensive line for poor communication. Two, Tagovailoa scrambles to his left and throws the ball into the dirt. 

However, as we mentioned before, something was different on Sunday. Instead, Tagovailoa channels his Alabama Crimson Tide form, rolls out, and delivers an absolute strike to Braxton Berrios on the left sideline. 

Considering velocity, placement, and situation, this is probably the best out-structure throw of Taogvailoa’s pro career. And it was… for like half a quarter. 

Here’s the best throw of Tagovailoa’s career. It’s just everything you could ask for. 

The Chargers show two-high at the snap, with Derwin James lurking as a robber in the middle of the field. Post-snap, the Chargers defense rotates, putting both safeties in the box and James back deep. 

Why did they do this? Well, it’s because of what we mentioned earlier. Tagovailoa loves hitting the middle of the field, so why not put two players there to close off those throwing lanes? 

There’s no way Tagovailoa has the gall to uncork a vertical route vs. Cover-1 on third and 10 down 34-30 with less than four minutes remaining in the game, right? 


Tagovailoa is initially looking to hit the underneath route, but his receiver falls down. That forces him to create something off-script. Last year, this would’ve been a death sentence for Tagovailoa. 

Not this time, though, as he steps up in the pocket and unleashes a perfectly played throw into a tight window while off-platform. It’s an unreal throw in a high-leverage spot. 

The defense won. It covered the middle. The receiver fell. And it didn’t matter. Tagovailoa made them pay anyway. 


We’ve written this column after every single of Tagovailoa’s starts in the past three years. Not once has he shown this level of quarterback play. 

Tagovailoa was always “good,” whatever that means to you. But he was never elite. His limited play-making skills prevented him from entering the upper echelon of quarterback play. 

On Sunday, Tagovailoa became a playmaker. When you combine that with his prowess in structure, it builds the profile of a potentially elite NFL quarterback. 

All of that is wonderful, and it deserves celebration. However, we must also preach caution. It’s just one game, and the Chargers’ defense doesn’t look like it will be a good unit this season. 

He made mistakes on Sunday, too. The second quarter featured some of Tagovailoa’s old warts. The Chargers clogged the middle of the field, and Tagovailoa didn’t adjust. There was a pretty bad interception where he threw the ball to Berrios on the wrong shoulder against a much bigger cornerback. 

Still, Tagovailoa figured it out when it mattered most, allowing the Dolphins to steal a win in Los Angeles. 

Tagovailoa will never be Patrick Mahomes outside the pocket; he doesn’t need to be. He just needs to make a few plays every game where he bails the offense out in big moments. 

Let’s see how the rest of the season plays out, but for the first time in his career, Tagovailoa showed the ceiling that got him selected in the top five in the first place.