Coming into the 2022 NFL season, there was arguably no player under a brighter spotlight than Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. He was selected by the team with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, going behind Cincinnati Bengals emerging star Joe Burrow, and one pick ahead of the supremely talented Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. Even though the Dolphins have finished with a winning record in each of the last two seasons, there was a lot of pressure on Tagovailoa to show that he could take the next step and evolve into a legitimate franchise quarterback.
In the early part of the season, the former Alabama Crimson Tide star has delivered on that expectation.
In his rookie season, the team decided to hand over the keys to the team to him after the team got off to a better than expected start. There were some questions about why Miami would not let incumbent veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick continue to play, since he got off to a strong beginning in 2020. Tagovailoa had an average performance as the starter to close out that campaign, and was benched in a couple of games in favor of Fitzpatrick. In the final week of the season, the Dolphins needed to beat the Buffalo Bills to qualify for the postseason, and Tagovailoa needed to perform well without Fitzpatrick, who tested positive for COVID the prior week. He struggled mightily, throwing three interceptions in that game.
The following season, Tagovailoa entered as the unquestioned starter. However, in a Week 2 game against the Bills, he got injured, and was forced to miss the team’s next three contests. When he returned for their game in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami suffered an embarrassing loss to a winless team at the time.
They would fall to 1-7 at their lowest point, and rumors about trading for Deshaun Watson got louder. However, Tagovailoa bounced back, and helped lead Miami to seven straight victories to get them back into the playoff mix. In a critical game against the Tennessee Titans in Week 17, he faltered, as the offense could only muster three points.
Under new head coach Mike McDaniel, the former first round pick has looked like a different player. McDaniel and new wide receiver Tyreek Hill have gone to great lengths to support Tagovailoa in public, and the third year signal caller has not disappointed. Integrating Hill and speedy second year pass catcher Jaylen Waddle, the team has turned into one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL seemingly overnight.
The culmination of this potential was realized in a Week 2 game against the Baltimore Ravens, where Miami was down 35-14 heading into the fourth quarter. Tagovailoa led the team back, pushing the ball downfield and throwing for a franchise record six touchdown passes.
In a critical division matchup with the Bills last week, he gutted through pain to help Miami’s offense do just enough to outlast Buffalo to start the 2022 NFL season 3-0.
It seems like things have finally fallen into place for Tagovailoa. He has some of the most dynamic weapons to work with in the NFL, and is understanding how to navigate the pocket in order to create throwing lanes. The key for him will be to stay healthy and avoid injuries, which is something McDaniel will need to prioritize when drawing up plays as well.