The Tua Tracker – Week 10, 2020

Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins Week 10 contest with the Los Angeles Chargers was billed as the big showdown between Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert. It is seemingly inevitable that Tua and Herbert will forever be compared to each other. The quarterbacks went 5th and 6th in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Miami Dolphins fans will want validation that their team picked the right quarterback. Chargers fans will want validation that Herbert landed in their lap and is the better pick. At this point, both Tua and Herbert have been excellent.

At any rate, this is the Tua Tracker and not the Herbert Hype. Let’s turn our focus on Tua in his third start as the Miami Dolphins’ signal-caller.

The Numbers Tua completed 15/25 passes for 169 yards, 2 TD’s, and zero interceptions. I love that Tua had no turnovers. But, other than that fact, there is absolutely nothing that jumps out at you from Tua’s stat line from the Chargers game. This performance is more in line with Tua’s first start against the Los Angeles Rams where Tua completed 12/22 passes for 93 yards, 1 TD, and zero interceptions.

On the plus side, Tua’s 106.9 quarterback rating ranked him as the 8th rated passer in the NFL for Week 10. Tua’s 2 touchdown passes ranked him 4th for touchdown passes among quarterbacks in Week 10. Tua’s 6.76 yards per attempt placed him 12th among quarterbacks in Week 10. Lastly, Tua’s adjusted yards per attempt was 8.36 yards which placed him 7th among quarterbacks in Week 10.

On the downside, Tua completed just 60% of his passes which ranked him 18th among quarterbacks in Week 10. This was a dip from Tua’s 71.43% completion percentage against the Arizona Cardinals last week. However, it still was not as poor as Tua’s 54.55% completion percentage against the Rams. In today’s NFL, quarterbacks are more accurate than ever before. Tua cannot be ranked in the bottom half of quarterbacks for completion percentage on a weekly basis. One of Tua’s strengths coming out of college was his accuracy. Tua averaged a 70% completion percentage in his Sophomore and Junior years at Alabama. Tua needs to work on being more consistent in this area. Of course, Tua’s tight ends and receivers have to help him out, too.

Tua Tagovailoa Next Gen Stats
Credit NFL Next Gen Stats

Tua’s 169 passing yards ranked him 18th among quarterbacks in Week 10. Again, in today’s NFL the passing game rules everything. However, I am not particularly worried about Tua’s total passing yards. Chan Gailey is still being careful with his rookie quarterback. Against the Chargers, Gailey continued to keep the passing game to short and intermediate routes. Gailey continued to lean on the running game as the Miami Dolphins rushed 32 the ball times and passed the ball 25 times. Gailey is gradually opening up the offense for Tua, but is wisely not asking the rookie to drop back and sling the ball all over the field 40 times in a game. Plus, the Dolphins built a quick lead in this game and Gailey was content to play a more conservative brand of offense. It made sense. The Dolphins’ Special Teams and Defense were playing well against the Chargers. There was no reason for the Miami Dolphins’ offense to do anything aggressive. Especially later in the game. The Miami Dolphins scored their final TD in the 4th Quarter with 11:44 to go. After that point, the Dolphins’ offense consisted of six runs, only one pass, and three kneel-downs.

Judging Tua on his total passing yardage does not seem to be fair. As Tua gains more experience I would expect Gailey to continue to open up more of the offense. Personally, I like the approach that Gailey is taking with Tua.

Gameplay The fact remains that Tua’s stats most definitely do not tell the entire story. There is so much to Tua’s game against the Chargers that does not show up in the stat line. Tua continued to display impressive confidence, poise, and leadership. Tua always seems calm and in control. At no point does Tua get that “deer in the headlights” look that so many rookie quarterbacks get during their first few starts. Tua already looks like a leader and a winner which is amazing for a rookie making his third start. It is certainly not what I see from most rookie quarterbacks. Another aspect of Tua’s game that does not show up in the stat line is his mobility. Tua continues to be a slippery quarterback who is difficult to sack and is able to snake around the field extending plays.

In this play, Karras gets off a terrible snap to Tua. However, Tua somehow gets a handle on the football and displays impeccable poise and pocket awareness. The result is a big throw and an impressive catch by DeVante Parker. Plays like this make fans excited about Tua.

Yeah, Tua does not complete the pass, but the fact that he avoids the sack and the negative yardage and still manages to get a pass off to his receiver is impressive. Tackling Tua in the pocket is like trying to grab mercury. Part of what makes Tua so exciting is that he is already flashing the ability to extend plays and turn negative plays into positive plays.

This play is 3rd and goal in the 4th Quarter with 11:44 remaining and the score 20-14. Tua rolls left and fakes the defense into going left. Tua then pivots and then throws across his body to Smythe who is all alone on the right for an easy score. Tua looks smooth as silk as he keeps his eyes facing left while rolling out and only looking right at the last minute.

This play showcases Tua doing what he loves the most: rolling left. At some point, defenses are going to start keying on this and forcing Tua to roll right. At any rate, Tua glides out left and pulls off an effective pump fake to freeze the defense. Tua continues rolling and then throws a pinpoint dart that hits Gesicki in stride. This play demonstrates Tua’s silky movement, his intelligence, and his accuracy. Of course, Tua is not perfect by any means. There were moments where Tua got flat out lucky or made some questionable decisions.

On this play, Tua throws the ball into tight coverage and is lucky the linebacker does not pick it off. The ball literally slithers through the linebacker’s hands.

Miami Dolphins Los Angeles Chargers
Credit NFL

Tua’s target, Adam Shaheen, is covered by three Chargers. The Dolphins only send three receivers out and the Chargers have the play well covered. But, Tua has single cover on the outside receiver. Take a closer look at this play.

Miami Dolphins Los Angeles Chargers
Credit NFL

Yeah, that is as close as you can get. It is the linebacker who looks like Tua’s intended target. How the linebacker does not come down with that ball is a stunner. It is as if Tua coated the football with a layer of grease so that it would slip right through the linebacker’s hands.

Here, Tua throws a dangerous pass into tight double coverage to DeVante Parker. In this play, Tua had Patrick Laird open in the flat. There was also single coverage on Gesicki. This was just bad decision making. Another positive is that Tua seeks to get all of his receivers/tight ends involved in the game. Tua spread the ball around to a total of eight receivers/tight ends against the Chargers. This effective distribution of the ball prevents the defense from keying on just one or two players. It also forces Tua’s receivers to keep their heads in the game at all times since the ball could be coming to them on any play.

Overall For the season, Tua’s stat line is now 49/77 for 519 yards, 5 TD’s, and 0 INTs. It is clear that Chan Gailey is wisely not asking too much of his rookie quarterback through his first three starts. Gailey has also focused on protecting his young quarterback. Opponents have blitzed Tua 37 times. Tua has been pressured five times, hit once, and hurried 0 times. According to Pro Football Reference, Tua has only been pressured 5.8% of his dropbacks.

Tua has a 63.6% completion rate. This ranks him 30th in the NFL. For comparison, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 70.1% completion percentage ranks him 3rd in the NFL. According to Pro Football Reference, Tua has had 1 batted ball, 2 throwaways, 1 spike, and 4 drops. Tua has had 14 bad throws for a bad throw percentage of 18.9%. Tua’s On Target percentage is 74.3% Tua has a 6.5% TD percentage which ranks him 8th in the NFL. Tua’s Quarterback Rating of 104.8 ranks also ranks him 8th in the NFL. For comparison, Fitzpatrick’s Quarterback Rating of 95 ranked him 21st in the NFL. Tua’s QBR of 71.6 ranks him 17th in the NFL. For comparison, Fitzpatrick’s QBR of 82.5 ranks him 3rd in the NFL.

Tua continues to enjoy some luck. Tua could have easily had two interceptions in this game. Dolphins fans would have had a much different view of Tua Tagovailoa’s performance if he went 15/25 passes for 169 yards, 2 TD’s, and 2 INTs. Sometimes luck plays a role in success, too. Despite his obvious talent, Tua is still a rookie and needs to continue to work on making the right reads and right decisions. The rookie also needs to learn that sometimes it is better to simply pull the ball down and run for whatever yards he can get or simply throw the ball away. All in all, Tua continues to impress. Tua continues to validate the Miami Dolphins’ decision to draft him over Herbert. There is no doubt that Tua has all the makings of an elite quarterback. It is going to be fun to watch Tua grow as the season progresses.

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