So, the Miami Dolphins lost yet another gut-check game on Sunday night. The Philadelphia Eagles hemmed in Miami’s offense for most of the night, and the Dolphins’ defense couldn’t overcome its many injuries. 

As for Tua Tagovailoa, he performed well enough on Sunday. He finished an unimpressive 23 for 32 with 213 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. However, his film was actually good, all things considered. 

In last week’s column, we said we’d learn a lot about the Dolphins and Tagovailoa after the game against the Eagles. So, let’s skip the long introduction and get right into the film.

Tua All-22 Review vs. Eagles

Cover-2 Hole Shots 

Tagovailoa made several throws in this game outside the numbers that were wildly impressive. This was the first of those. The Eagles are playing cover-2 to that side of the formation, leaving Waddle’s seven-route to attack the hole in coverage. 

Tagovailoa doesn’t have the arm strength to hammer this ball into the tight space, but he does have the anticipation to fit the throw in there anyway. 

He releases the ball a good five yards early and puts it right on the sideline so Waddle can elevate for the catch while keeping the defender on his back. This high-level quarterbacking is an excellent example of what makes Tagovailoa a good quarterback. 

The Dolphins probably should’ve scored on this drive but shot themselves in the foot — a common theme from Sunday — with penalties. 

Clutch Tua

We’ve done this column every week for more than three years now. So it’s difficult to rank all the throws Tagovailoa has made. However, this ball to Cedrick Wilson at the end of the first half feels like it should be towards the top of any imaginary rankings. 

The situation is what’s important here. The Dolphins are trailing 17-3 with 2:03 remaining in the first half. Miami’s offense has done nothing the entire half and is facing what feels like an insurmountable 3rd and 18. 

It wasn’t insurmountable, though, as Tagovailoa made an impressive throw to Wilson on the deep corner route. Again, this ball has more juice than the last one, but it’s not exactly a dart. 

It’s the anticipation and placement that stands out. Tagovailoa releases this ball incredibly early and puts it on the sideline, allowing Wilson to his back as a shield vs. the defender. 

The Dolphins scored their first and only touchdown on another throw worth discussing… 

Dropped in the Basket

Whew, boy, this is a good one. The Eagles are doubling Tyreek Hill at the top of the screen. I’ve seen some debate among smart scheme people about what type of double coverage this is — it looks like bracket, but whatever — but it doesn’t matter. 

Hill is so fast that he splits it, and Tagovailoa is so deadly accurate that he floats the ball perfectly over the top. What’s most impressive about this throw is its landing on Hill’s back shoulder. 

That’s the difference between good placement and elite placement. The throw could’ve landed on Hill’s front shoulder, and it still would’ve been a touchdown. However, it just goes to show how accurate Tagovailoa can be sometimes. 

This touchdown and the throw to Wilson gave the Dolphins life when they had none. It dragged them back into a game they were out of. It’s elite. 

Missed Opportunites

The Dolphins had a few odd offensive miscues on Sunday night. All the pre-snap penalties were brutal. There were some spacing issues — we’ll cover that later — and even a few drops. 

Hill’s drop near the goal line has gotten a lot of fanfare, but this one is flying under the radar. For Tagovailoa, it’s an excellent throw with impending pressure in his face. 

He identified the 1-on-1 matchup pre-snap and ripped a well-placed ball with anticipation over the middle of the field. Hill should come down with this one for a first down and potential big play. 

Minor errors add when you’re playing on the road against a team that went to the Super Bowl last year, especially when you’re trailing in the second half. 

This was another missed opportunity for a first down. The Dolphins tried to get their RBs downfield all night. When the Eagles were in man coverage, the Dolphins wanted to attack Zach Cunningham. 

That didn’t happen on this play, but Salvon Ahmed gets open nonetheless. Ahmed is running a wheel route vs. zone coverage. It’s the roughly same hole shot where Tagovailoa hit Waddle earlier in the game. 

The difference? This type of throw is more challenging for Tagovailoa. When hitting this window down the field, the quarterback can put more on the ball. It requires zip, sure, but not quite as much. It’s more of a combination throw where anticipation can replace velocity. 

Here, the window is much closer to the line of scrimmage. Tagovailoa needed a pure fastball to fit the window, and he threw a changeup. When some say Tagovailoa’s arm strength isn’t great, this is the stuff they’re referencing. 

Tagovailoa’s arm strength being a debate-worthy topic this far into his career is insane. His arm strength is below average. There are throws on the field off the menu for him. However, his anticipation and accuracy are so potent he’s a good NFL quarterback anyway. 

It’s genuinely straightforward. However, it does lead to some misses like this one. 

Critical Mistake

Let’s talk about the INT that all but sealed the game in the Eagles’ favor. There’s a lot of angles to this one. There are two main excuses I’ve seen people use for this INT are: route spacing and DPI. 

First, the route spacing isn’t good — there’s no debating that. It’s hard to know where Waddle was supposed to be, but imagining it was right on top of Mostert’s wheel route is hard. Darius Slay shouldn’t be that close to make the INT. 

Is this DPI? It’s hard to say, but there’s no doubt DPI has been called for less this season, for and against the Dolphins. 

Are either of those things legitimate excuses for this INT? No, and it’s not even close. 

For starters, DPI is in play only because Tagovailoa underthrew the ball in the first place. Mostert has separation on Cunningham — a matchup Miami wanted all game — and is running to the back corner of the endzone. 

If Tagovailoa makes the correct throw, the ball leads Mostert near the back pylon, negating his need to work through the defender for the football. 

As for the spacing, it’s a mistake, no doubt, but it doesn’t change the actual throw Tagovailoa makes. Whether Slay is there or not, it’s an inaccurate, underthrown pass. Again, small mistakes loom larger against good teams. 

Slay is one of the best ball-hawking CBs in the sport. He makes plays like this all the time. Should Waddle have pulled him further away? Yes, but Slay had a bead on this throw from the start and might’ve made the play anyway. 

It’s important to remember that two things can be true at once. This can be a questionable call by the refs and a poor throw by Tagovailoa. 


Alright, what did we learn about Tagovailoa this week? He’s not at the point where he can take over a game against a quality opponent and will the Dolphins to victory. 

That will upset some, but it’s true. Tagovailoa played well on Sunday but didn’t get the job done. At the end of the day, that’s what the history books will say. 

There is good news, though. Tagovailoa is much closer to becoming that “takeover” player than ever. He’s made legitimate progress all season; we even saw flashes in this game. 

The drive right before the half was elite. Tagovailoa took over the game and asserted himself as the best player on the field for two minutes, willing the Dolphins back into a game they were getting outplayed in. 

He just needs to do it for an entire game. It’s the next step in his evolution. He was close on Sunday. A few bounces go the Dolphins’ way, and we’re probably having a different conversation today. 

But close isn’t good enough when the question around Tagovailoa is whether he’s elite. 

Ultimately, Sunday’s game isn’t skewing our view of Tagovailoa one way or the other. He’s having a great season and is playing his best ball since entering the league. 

However, to truly become an elite quarterback, he’s got to get his signature moment against a good team. Some will say it’s unfair, and perhaps it is, but it’s reality. Elite quarterbacks must be held to the highest standard. Like it or not, that’s how they’re judged. 

Remember, two things can be true at once. Tagovailoa’s performance on Sunday can be good, but still not good enough. 

Don’t worry, though. Tagovailoa has plenty of time and will get plenty of chances to rewrite the narrative. This isn’t a knock on Tagovailoa but an honest evaluation of where he is.