Dolphins playmakers acknowledge this is a critical season for Tua Tagovailoa
Not only are Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle expected to be two of Tua Tagovailoa’s top playmakers, but the Miami Dolphins receivers are also serving as the quarterback’s biggest advocates.
During the latest episode of Hill’s It Needed to be Said podcast that featured Waddle, the Dolphins receivers talked about the improves they’ve seen from Tagovailoa, who was the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft.
When asked to compare Tagovailoa from the 2021 season, where he produced a 90.1 passer rating after completing 67.8 percent of his passes, throwing for 2,653 yards with 16 touchdowns in the 13 games he played, to the quarterback Miami saw during the offseason work in coach Mike McDaniel’s new offense, Waddle downplayed what Hill believes is a substantial difference.
“They know what Tua is capable of for real,” said Hill, a three-time Pro Bowler who the Dolphins traded a treasure chest of draft picks to acquire from the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason and gave a contract extension that averages $30 million a season.
“That boy looks scary right now,” Waddle said about Tagovailoa, who helped him set a NFL record for most receptions (104) by a rookie last season. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s him. He’s been that guy since Alabama.
“He’s going to come in consistent accurate, make the throws he’s supposed to do, show out and be a leader. … I been seeing that,” said Waddle, who turned those 104 receptions in 1,015 yards and seven touchdowns last season. “I’m going to be happier when everyone else gets to see what I already know.”
Tagovailoa, who owns a 13-8 record as an NFL starter, is joined by Mac Jones, who went 10-7 as the New England Patriots rookie starter last season, as the only two quarterbacks from the 2019, 2020, and 2021 draft classes that are in possession of a winning record as an NFL starter.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, who was taken one pick after Tagovailoa in the 2020 draft, has a 15-17 regular-season record.
Jalen Hurts has a 9-10 record from his time as the Philadelphia Eagles starter past two seasons. But Hurts led the Eagles to the playoffs last season.
Jordan Love, a 2020 first-round pick, serves as Aaron Rodgers’ backup in Green Bay. He has a 0-1 record from his one start with the Packers.
Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow, who was the first pick in the 2020 draft, owns a 12-13-1 record in the regular season. Burrow’s record goes to 15-14-1 when playoff games are factored in considering the Bengals advanced to the Super Bowl last season, where they lost to the Los Angeles Rams.
Even Arizona’s Kyler Murray, the first pick in the 2019 draft, has a 22-23-1 regular season record with the Cardinals. Daniel Jones, the New York Giants starting quarterback, was also a first-round pick in that draft. He owns a 12-25 record for his play the past three seasons.
Dwayne Haskins, a 2019 first-round pick, had a 3-10 record before his untimely passing this spring. And Drew Lock owns a 8-13 record from his tenure with the Denver Broncos. He’s now competing with Geno Smith for the starting spot in Seattle.
Most of the rookie quarterbacks in the 2021 draft — Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence (3-14), New York Jets Zach Wilson (3-10), San Francisco’s Trey Lance (1-1), Chicago’s Justin Fields (2-8) — struggled last season. Jones was the only rookie starter who had success.
“You know, in the NFL they only give you like two or three years to be a successful quarterback, especially if you’re a first-round draft pick,” Hill said. “And if you don’t succeed after those years, then it’s kick rocks, man. So, basically, they’re going to put Tua into that. So this is basically his last year, man, just to show people what he’s got.”
While it’s clear Tagovailoa’s third season could help determine whether he is a quarterback worth building around, it may be premature to say this will be his last season to be evaluated as an NFL starter. Tagovailoa has already won more games than he’s lost despite not having a great relationship with former head coach Brian Flores, and Miami possessing one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL the past two seasons, an anemic rushing attack, and a receiver unit decimated by injuries.
This offseason the Dolphins fortified the offensive line by signing Pro Bowler Terron Armstead and veteran starter Connor Williams, changed the running scheme and added three former starting tailbacks. Miami traded for Hill, used the franchise tag on Mike Gesicki, and added Cedrick Wilson Jr. to its receiver unit.
The hope is that the foundation has been laid for Tagovailoa to have success, and possibly lead the Dolphins to the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season.
“It’s gonna be a lot of people taking their words back on what they said about [Tua],” said Hill, who called Tagovailoa the most accurate quarterback he’s every played with on his first episode of It Needed To Be Said. “I can’t really name point, but I’m saying reporters, analysts, Twitter trolls. All those people are gonna take their words back on what they said about [Tua], and I’m just gonna be sitting there, eating my popcorn.”