Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Tua; Start him, sit him, or redshirt him?

Tua Tagovailoa was quite the polarizing individual for many fans on most social media platforms during the build-up to the draft, with opinions ranging in both extremes for and against drafting him. He’s in the (virtual) building now so whatever your take on him, you need to accept that for the immediate future, he’s the guy the Dolphins will be hoping is the long term answer to traversing mediocrity.

The debate now falls on when Tua will take the field (and what number will be on his back). There is a lot of speculation at the moment claiming he’ll start when he’s ready, make no mistake, in Tua’s head he’s ready right now because that’s the type of competitive athlete he is.

Tua Tagovailoa will start, but when?

He’s also extremely humble and understands the need to earn the right to start but ultimately, there are many variables that will dictate when this will happen. Let’s take a look at what factors might come into play and what might influence the decision on whether to start him, sit him or effectively redshirt him.

Tua Tagovailoa has all the skills to be the Dolphins franchise QB © Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Tua Tagovailoa has all the skills to be the Dolphins franchise QB © Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Let’s start off with the most obvious one, Tua’s health. This was perhaps the main concern many fans had with potentially drafting the Alabama Quarterback.

The surgery on his dislocated hip and posterior wall fracture has been widely documented, as have the ‘tightrope’ surgeries conducted on both ankles (26th Oct 2019 and after the SEC Championship game in 2018) and the broken finger suffered on 18th March during spring practice.

This has led to many describing him as injury-prone or ‘made of glass’. Firstly, the ‘tightrope’ procedures were carried out to speed up his recovery time and if left would have healed naturally, the coaches simply didn’t want to wait because they valued their prize QB so highly.

It’s also a relatively simple and common procedure that effectively eradicates the risk of the high ankle strain reoccurring. The broken finger was unfortunate but let’s be honest, could have happened to anybody and it healed perfectly and it hasn’t had any impact on his ability to throw the ball.

The major blow was the fracture and dislocation, but I’d suggest that this was simply unlucky and it actually highlighted a potential weakness in his game, the lack of self-preservation. Rather than simply throw the ball away he tried to make a play (which shows an upside in his character and competitiveness) and ended up with two huge human beings being dumped on top of him.

Would the resultant injuries have occurred if the QB was Burrow or Herbert? It’s difficult to say but I maintain that this came down to pure dumb luck rather than a prowess for injury.

Tua’s injury history shouldn’t technically have any impact on his ability to play, he’s been fully cleared and ready to compete without any restrictions so on, paper there’s nothing to say he couldn’t start from day one, but should he?

Dolphins still rebuilding

Next, we have the undeniable fact that right now Miami are at the beginning of a complete rebuild. Note the word ‘beginning’. Last year was knocking the house down, this year is laying the foundations and starting to build up from the bottom, which is why the Dolphins invested so heavily during the offseason and draft in both lines.

Many fans were expressing their disdain at not drafting one of the premium running backs in the 1st or 2nd round (FYI a 5th round pick for Breida was a steal) but you can’t put a roof on a house if the walls haven’t been built. It had the potential to do more harm than good… Kalen Ballage case in point.

Fitzpatrick would be a good teacher for Tua © Charles Trainor jr
Fitzpatrick would be a good teacher for Tua © Charles Trainor jr

The Dolphins could realistically start the season with 5 completely new starters in the offensive line in Jackson, Hunt, and Kindley from the draft and Flowers and Karras from free agency. They also picked up center Donell Stanley who also has experience at Guard as an undrafted free agent.

No doubt every Dolphins fan is excited by this prospect, this is a line consisting of huge human beings with the potential to open up gaps for the run game and protect whoever’s under center. But at this stage, that’s all it is, potential.

There is still a chance that this line might not be as productive as the coaches would like this year and it will take time for the players to gel and work as a unit. With that in mind, it would make sense to start a QB with experience playing behind a less than stellar line like last year’s starter Ryan Fitzpatrick.

That’s not because I want to see him get taken apart, far from it, I actually think Ryan did a great job last season, was fun to watch and had a galvanising effect on the team. Which is why I think it makes sense so that the guys in the line can focus on their assignments without having to think about protecting the future face of the franchise.

If they turn out to be absolute studs, then that’s another box ticked and another huge stride forward taken towards potentially starting Tua. If the line is looking solid and Fitz isn’t producing the goods, would that be a good time for the fans to make an introduction?

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