Two Wins for Tua

           Tua Tagovailoa was more than missed during his time out dealing with the controversial concussion situation. The fear that went through our hearts and minds and Dolphins fans as we watched Tua lying supine on that field is something that we never want to experience again. We feared for Tua’s health, but if we are being honest, we also feared for our own happiness. Some fans thought Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson were better quarterbacks on the roster, but anyone who truly watched Tua’s surgical precision and mastery of the offense in those first three games knew that Tua was a cut above the rest and was on his way to having a special season. Those who did not understand this clearly saw how much he was missed by this team in the performance of the offense during the three games in which Tua was absent. After a rusty game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and his former head coach in the week prior, Tua has learned to compartmentalize protecting himself while still trying to be himself and extend plays to make game winning gains for his team. Tua against Detroit was the equivalent of an MLB pitcher pitching a perfect game after being shaky in his last start back from injury.

Winning in Detroit

            Detroit came out firing on all cylinders offensively, Jared Goff was in rare form in the first half and was giving Boyer grief with what defense to call. Campbell was aggressive with fake punt calls and Goff had our young replacement defensive backs scrambling early. It was clear this game was going to be a shootout and the fumble by Edwards on Miami’s first possession put the Dolphins in a deep hole when they needed to keep up with the Lions stride for stride so that they did not end up becoming Lion prey. Tua stepped up to the plate and was dealing dimes and strikes all over the park. He was serving on time on point passes on the menu all day and Hill and Waddle were beating their off-coverage defenders with ease and catching everything like Yogi Berra. The Dolphins offense is innovative and exciting to watch. McDaniel’s play designs put tremendous stress on the defenders to choose the lesser of two evils. It is basically an unfortunate game of “pick your poison” and when they declare their choice, Tua still kills them with a lethal dose of the other option anyway. Tua’s anticipation and accuracy are elite, and he makes quick reads and decisions that make it hard for the pass rush to get home even when they send more men than we can block. We are watching a special triggerman grow up right before our very eyes.

Duel Threat No More

              Almost three years removed from his devastating hip injury in college, Tua is no longer the dual threat quarterback we were introduced to in Tuscaloosa. He may never be a dual threat quarterback again. However, his hip has clearly healed, and his throws have regained velocity along with his ability to run for a timely first down when he must. His wheels are back. Last year this time Tua showed that he had pocket presence and the sense to know when a pass rusher was near, but he did not always have the wheels to bail out or extend the play. Tua has that back now and he is side-stepping pass rushers and throwing darts across the middle and outside the numbers as well. Tua’s intermediate passing game is nothing to bleep with. Underestimate his arm strength if you want to but the ball is going to get there before you can flip your hips and make your recovery run.

The Receivers

         The Dolphins’ receiving corps is so good at getting free releases at the line of scrimmage and then using their speed to get open that playing man defense against them is almost impossible to do. Giving them 10-yard cushions and trying to keep them in front of you is not really working either. It is like giving a track team a running head start. I would not want to be back pedaling with Jaylen or Tyreek running full speed at me either. Zone by default is pretty much what you are forced to call as a defensive play caller on the opposing sideline, but every once in a while, when teams play man and turn their back on Tua just to give him a different defensive look to process. No problem, the Dolphins move the pocket and roll-out or naked bootleg so often that Tua will have the option to make quick little runs and get down safely before he takes a big hit. This is what makes Tua so lethal and efficient on third downs now. You must prepare for everything, but you cannot stop everything. This will undoubtedly return the teams to their base zone defense which Tua excels at slicing and dicing because of his aforementioned ability to throw with accuracy and anticipation to the open spaces in the zone.

Grip It and Rip It!

              Tua knows that he is dealing with a special receiving tandem, and he trusts Waddle and Hill inherently and unconditionally. Tagovailoa reads the defender and makes throws based on what keys the defender gives him as opposed to wondering if his teammates are reading the same thing that he is when they have choice autonomy on option routes. Tua knows that they are seeing the field the same way he does because they work hard on breaking down film together and then running it in practice. Like Tyreek said in training camp, whenever he messes up Tua is right there to correct him because he has mastered all of the concepts of the offense. Tua knows that his receivers will beat their man ten times out of ten. He knows that his receivers will be in the right spot, and he knows they will come up with the catch. So just like Dan Marino advised him to do, Tua picks a guy and lets it fly. It gives a quarterback confidence when your teammates and coordinators are all aligned and reading the same sheet of music. This is a luxury that Tua did not have before under Flores and now we are seeing why Grier chose McDaniel over the other coaching prospects that were available. We have to give Grier his flowers for making the right call and we have to applaud Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill for having the most receiving yards of any receiver tandem in the first eight games of a season in NFL history. That is no small achievement. Both Jaylen and Tyreek were each worth 30 fantasy points for their performances on Sunday against the Lions and Tua had himself a perfect game. Cheetah by himself has more receiving yards than 8 whole teams and Jaylen is catching touchdowns.

              As far as the media constantly criticizing Tua for his arm strength and under-throwing deep balls, timing and being able to step into a throw affects deep ball accuracy greatly. There was one play that was under-thrown because Detroit had a free rusher in Tua’s face, and he was not able to hitch, climb the pocket, and step up into his throw. He unleashed a deep bomb off-platform and off his back foot and it got to Hill for an enormous chunk play. The fact that it was a deep completion when Tua had no time in the pocket should have been celebrated. Instead, the national media found a way to look at that play from a negative perspective. There was another deep bomb to Cheetah where Tua had to bail out of the pocket to protect himself from getting crushed. He rolled to the right to buy time and then stepped up and threw the pass to Tyreek way later than he wanted to over the middle. Tyreek Hill is one of the fastest players to ever set foot on turf and he was already way down the field and Tua threw it extremely late. Of course, the ball was not going to hit Hill in stride! However, once again, it was completed for another deep completion that put the Dolphins in scoring position. Plays like these and some others on a few third and longs kept the Dolphins in the shootout long enough for their defense to sort out their adjustments. Somehow, the national media found a way to criticize the play when other quarterbacks would have been commended for extending and making the play when it was almost blown up by a pass rusher.

              Tua is leading the league in passer rating, total QBR, and yards per completion. He is top three in completion percentage and top 10 in touchdowns despite missing three games due to injury. Most impressive of all is that Tua is 5-0 in the games he has finished, which is the most important statistic of all. Tua is 2-0 since he has returned and this Dolphin offense is picking right back up where it left off before he got injured. Tagovailoa is a field general for the offense and a good luck charm that inspires his defense to be dominant at home and play inspired 2ndhalf football on the road even after letting teams like Baltimore and Detroit run wild in the 1sthalf. The defense knows that if they get the stop, Tua is going to lead the offense on a scoring drive and give them a great chance to win. It is time that we accept what our eyes have been telling us for a while, not only is this offense fun to watch, but Tua is the future of our franchise. Period. Bring on the Bears!

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