It’s no secret that Tua Tagovailoa had a rough rookie year. In nine starts he completed 64.1% of his passes for 1,814 yards along with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. Advanced numbers don’t make it better. He finished 26th in DYAR and DVOA, both stats of which are from Football Outsiders. ESPN’s QBR had him 27th and Pro Football Focus had him 33rd in passing grade. Many through last season seemed to think that he completely sucked and that he isn’t any good. It was even being questioned if they should move on after not even a year and get a new quarterback because they had a top five pick coming to them from Houston. The Dolphins chose not to do that but instead are going all in on helping their young quarterback be successful whether people agree with it or not. Chris Grier, the General Manager, and Head Coach Brian Flores made the right call.
The biggest reason Tua Tagovailoa had issues was he didn’t have very good surroundings. Also, he was playing in his first season since having surgery to fix a dislocated hip injury that ended his college career early. Pro Football Focus graded the Dolphins pass protection 21st and that unit earned that grade despite Tua getting the ball out in a quick 2.54 seconds. Their offensive line also finished 20th in Football Outsider’s adjusted sack rate. When actually watching their line play those rankings make sense. They had to get the ball out quick so Tua didn’t get killed in the pocket.
His offensive lines at Alabama were always strong, but the biggest thing Tua had going for him at Alabama was the elite weaponry he had to work with. Pro Football Focus graded his receivers at Alabama 1st in 2018 and tied for first in 2019. The Dolphins receivers graded 17th in addition to the poor line play. Chris Grier is relying on three draft picks on the offensive line from a year ago to go with the smart addition of Liam Eichenberg in the draft to play right tackle. Eichenberg had elite PFF grades overall and as a run blocker while being graded as a good pass blocker. As long as this line can play at least at a league average level they will be far more successful on offense especially when you consider the new weaponry.
They’ve reunited Tua with one of his favorite and very lethal wide receivers Jaylen Waddle in the draft and also signed Will Fuller in the offseason. That’s to go with already established players DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki. Third round selection Hunter Long could even have an impact in the pass game. Fuller has had injury issues through his career but has managed to play in eleven games in each of the last two seasons. Last season Will Fuller had 53 receptions on 75 targets for 879 yards and 8 touchdowns. It would be great to see Fuller able to play a full year with his talent on display.
The Dolphins also did not receive much help from their run game as they ranked 29th in average yards per carry as a team. Pro Football Focus graded their rushing offense tied for 20th and their run blocking ranked 30th. According to Football Outsiders they had a stuffed rate that ranked 21st at 17.9% . As previously mentioned they drafted Liam Eichenberg who had an elite PFF run blocking grade tied for 13th to play right tackle and Robert Hunt will slide in to play right guard. Outside of the EIchenberg addition they’re relying on the development of last year’s rookies Austin Jackson at left tackle, and then Solomon Kindley and Robert Hunt at the guard spots. Last season’s unique adjustments due to COVID- 19 didn’t help their development but this offseason they’ll be able to get more work in. In addition to the potentially overhauled offensive line the Dolphins added running back Malcolm Brown from the Rams. Flores is a fan of Brown and his versatility.
The last change Miami made to help their offense was firing Chan Gailey and splitting offensive coordinator responsibilities between George Godsey and Eric Studesville. While we can’t be exactly certain of what their offense will look like, we can make some educated guesses. Signing Will Fuller, a speed demon and lethal downfield threat, and drafting Tua’s lightning fast former Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle suggests they definitely want this offense to do a better job of pushing the ball downfield. Tagovailoa ranked 27th in ADOT as a rookie at 8.0 yards. Bringing in Brown and Flores talking about him the way he has also suggests we’ll see him plenty and they will try to use a hopefully improved run game to be another positive factor for a Tua rebound. If they can be more aggressive in the pass game and get solid rushing production this offense has the tools to function at a high level. Tua Tagovailoa WILL have a breakout second season.