Saturday, January 20, 2024

Realistic expectations for Tua Tagovailoa in 2020

After all the draft-day hype of Tua Tagovailoa’s selection, and the subsequent outpouring of emotion and hope, it’s time to start taking things a little bit more seriously as we approach the potential opening of camp at the end of July.

There is no doubt that Tua is the most talented and hardest working Dolphins quarterback since Dan Marino. His combination of grit, talent, and work ethic have made him a darling of the majority of the fan base before he has even taken the field.

A consensus top-2 quarterback in the draft prior to his hip injury, for Tua Tagovailoa to fall to the Dolphins at number five was an absolute miracle. But make no mistake about it, this is likely not a case of an overnight turnaround in success for the on-field product.

Tua Tagovailoa changes the narrative

Don’t believe those who tell you Tua will be a bust. He may be, but they have no way of knowing that. It’s just a knee-jerk, emotional reaction because the Dolphins didn’t take ‘their guy’. His tangibles, and intangibles, make this pick the easiest Chris Grier will ever make as a GM. Tua was best available, and also the team’s biggest need.

Tua Tagovailoa is the BEST quarterback to take the field in a Dolphin’s uniform since Marino. Period.

He can read the field better, make the throws better, and move in the pocket better than any quarterback since Marino. That’s not in doubt. He is more exciting than anything we have seen since Ronnie Brown’s Wildcat, and he will make this offense more consistently good than a lot of fans have ever seen.

But the situation isn’t simple. Tua IS coming off a devastating hip injury that required months of rehab before he could even get back to throwing the ball. He has been cleared for physical contact, and that’s a great sign. Again, don’t listen to the keyboard warriors who pretend they know more than actual Doctor’s who have seen his medical reports, examined him, and have actual knowledge of the situation.

Those Doctors are not putting their professional reputations, and careers, on the line just to say what the Dolphins want to hear. But there are mental issues that can come with such an injury. Tua may be a little gun-shy until he’s taken that first 300-pound lineman landing on him. And that’s ok. That’s normal.

We saw similar with Ryan Tannehill not wanting to step into his throws and expose that left ACL when he came back in 2018. That changed in 2019 after a year (almost) of hits, and tackles. These guys are human, despite how much we make them into Gods.

2020 and the Year of the Tua

MGM has Tua Tagovailoa as the third favorite for Offensive Rookie of The Year behind Burrow and Swift. I think that’s about right but maybe a little high for a number of reasons.

First, I don’t see Tua starting the season. Fitzpatrick is erratic, unpredictable, and not as good, but he is the incumbent and needs to be unseated. With only two preseason games that is highly unlikely. Second, that short preseason gives Tua Tagovailoa less chance to learn the offense and perform in it at a high level. With a full preseason and camp, I think we could realistically have seen Tua start out the gate, but not now.

Just for the record I am not as high on Burrow at Cincinnati and would have Edwards-Helaire as the favorite for OROY in that KC offense.

A tricky opening schedule against some quality defenses could hold Tua out until week 7 or later. There’s a nice stretch of games starting with the Chargers at home that the Dolphins might be eyeing to slot him in as a starter for. Depending on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s performance. And I think that’s likely where we are.

I expect Tua Tagovailoa to be good enough to go by week 4 or so, but there’s no need to rush him. There are many factors to consider this season, and many are not even football related. So rein in the expectations and look for Tua to start 8-10 games, and win maybe 4 or 5 of them.

I love this kid for his talent, work ethic, and his heart. It’s his heart and inability to quit that will make him a Dolphins legend in my opinion. But it may not all happen in 2020. And that’s OK.

Tua is the future of the Dolphins, but the future is more than just 2020.

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