What to maximum folks got here as an sudden efficiency by means of Tua Tagovailoa was once no longer unexpected, Mike McDaniel stated. Even after a record-setting comeback and a passing output equaled handiest by means of Dan Marino in franchise historical past, the Miami Dolphins head trainer stated Tagovailoa hadn’t performed anything else that the workforce didn’t already know the quarterback was once in a position to doing.
“No one was like, ‘Whoa, dude, where’d that come from?’” McDaniel stated.
That refers to Tagovailoa’s six-touchdown, 469-yard efficiency in opposition to the Baltimore Ravens in a 42-38 comeback win Sunday. Both the touchdowns and the passing yardage had been profession highs for the third-year professional.
“It’s good for y’all to see, but we kind of expect that,” broad receiver Jaylen Waddle stated.
OK, however come on. Tagovailoa had by no means performed like that sooner than, and the undeniable fact that he’s proven marked growth in the first two weeks of this season is a great factor for a Miami offense that wanted vital building from its beginning quarterback. The query now turns into whether or not a much wider target audience must percentage the Dolphins’ expectancies. Maybe it’s unfair to be expecting Tagovailoa to drop 42 issues on fighters weekly, however can the Dolphins maintain this explosive offense lengthy sufficient to position the workforce in the combine amongst AFC playoff contenders?
First, the causes for skepticism: Many of Tagovailoa’s superb performs in opposition to the Ravens got here in high-variance scenarios. Four of his six touchdowns got here on 1/3 downs, and two got here in opposition to busted coverages by means of Baltimore. Miami scored 28 of its 42 issues in the fourth quarter, as accidents took a toll on the Ravens’ secondary. Baltimore was once already with out starter Brandon Stephens, and Marlon Humphrey was once restricted to only 11 fourth-quarter snaps.
But there’s nonetheless a transparent explanation why to imagine that the approach Miami’s offense performed Sunday, if most likely no longer the outrageous stats and fourth-quarter magic, is replicable. Beyond merely appearing off the pace of Waddle and Tyreek Hill, or Tagovailoa’s poise below drive past due in the sport, the Dolphins offense confirmed that the aggregate of dynamic staff, Tagovailoa’s abilities as a passer, and McDaniel’s scheming can mesh in combination in some way that works.
It was once no longer glaring getting into this season that it might. On a elementary stage, McDaniel got here from a Kyle Shanahan–designed offense in San Francisco that has an extended historical past of having excellent manufacturing from quarterbacks with out asking them to raise the avid gamers round them. (In 2021, as an example, the 49ers had the seventh-best offense by means of general yardage and ranked first in web yards in step with cross try in spite of asking their quarterbacks—basically Jimmy Garoppolo, even though Trey Lance threw 71 passes, as smartly—to try simply 514 passes, which ranked twenty ninth in the league and, in Garoppolo’s case, tied for twenty second in moderate intensity of goal.) Looking much more severely at the attainable scheme are compatible between trainer and quarterback, the Dolphins employed any individual from a heavy play-action device the place the quarterback is normally below middle to train Tagovailoa, who performed 88 p.c of his snaps out of shotgun formations in 2021. Tagovailoa ranked twenty ninth in the NFL in moderate intensity of goal final yr, and the Dolphins are actually asking him to throw to 2 of the NFL’s quickest deep-ball threats, 2021 first-round draft pick out Waddle and three-time All-Pro first-team pick out Hill. The attainable gave the impression there for Miami to finish up with some very fancy sq. pegs and an overly fancy around hollow.
Sunday’s efficiency in opposition to the Ravens was once essential as it confirmed that each one of the ones items can are compatible snugly in combination. Looking at the first two weeks of the Dolphins’ season, Miami has proven no less than 3 primary offensive tendencies that permit all the element portions to click on.
The first is that Tagovailoa is throwing the ball deeper down the box than he ever has sooner than. His moderate intensity in step with goal final yr was once 7.0 yards, worse than quarterbacks like Davis Mills and Daniel Jones. This yr he’s tied for fifteenth amongst certified passers, at a median of seven.8 yards. (If you had Tua throwing farther downfield than Josh Allen to your 2022 NFL bingo card, hats off to you.)
It’s no longer that the Dolphins are completely uncorking Tagovailoa, who doesn’t have the arm energy to be an elite deep-ball passer. But they’re no longer waving the white flag and having him dink and dunk round the line of scrimmage and depend only on his playmakers to create after the catch. The end result to this point is that the Dolphins lead the NFL with 338 yards after the catch, however the ones performs are going for even extra yards on account of the air yards Tagovailoa is including in the first position.
The impact is not just that Miami is in a position to transfer the ball in chunks, but additionally that the Dolphins are ready to pressure defenses to unfold out. This was once most definitely at all times going to occur given the appreciate that defensive coordinators have for Hill’s and Waddle’s pace, however Tagovailoa is proving that he’s going to take some deeper drops and throw to the intermediate stage of the box. This demanding situations fighters into protecting much more territory, and also you noticed the affect on Sunday, as Hill and Waddle each and every averaged greater than 3 yards of separation, in line with Next Gen Stats. Tagovailoa even underthrew two landing passes to Hill, however the receiver had enough room to return to get them.
A significant factor for the Dolphins final season was once how frequently Tagovailoa was once throwing into tight home windows, one thing he did a league-leading 19.3 p.c of the time. So a ways this yr, that determine has dropped to eight.4 p.c, twenty eighth amongst beginning quarterbacks. (Next Gen Stats defines a tight-window throw as one to a receiver with not up to a backyard of separation from the nearest defender.) Tagovailoa’s accuracy and ball placement when no longer throwing deep rank amongst his strengths as a passer—McDaniel stated just lately that he throws “the most accurate, catchable ball I’ve ever seen”—so the factor wasn’t such a lot that he couldn’t make the ones throws however that they had been going to receivers who didn’t have the area to show upfield and lengthen the play. That has reversed considerably to this point this season. Continuing to push the ball downfield greater than they’ve performed in the previous has allowed Tagovailoa to make the most of the playmakers round him and get them the ball in scenarios the place they are able to upload yards after the catch. Tagovailoa doesn’t must become a deep-ball thrower (and he shouldn’t), however he has to stay forcing fighters to protect sufficient of the box in order that area opens up throwing home windows at each stage of the box.
McDaniel’s talent to make use of spacing has unlocked the center of the box for Tagovailoa. Look at the distinction in his passing warmth map, from TruMedia, from 2021 to his two video games in 2022 and also you’ll see a far higher sparkling crimson dot between the hashes:
Tagovailoa is indexed at 6-foot-1, on the smaller aspect for an NFL quarterback, and considerations that his measurement would prohibit his imaginative and prescient in the center of the box had been obviously borne out in his play final season. He didn’t seem at ease throwing between the hashes. But when the protection can’t clog up the brief and intermediate spaces of the box, it creates open receivers and wider throwing lanes, which Tagovailoa has been ready to make the most of, as he did in this 33-yard of entirety to Waddle on the left hash in opposition to the Ravens:
The 1/3 vital trade in the Dolphins offense below McDaniel is they’ve nearly fully performed away with the constant however no longer explosive RPO-heavy offense they depended on closely final season. They’ve changed a lot of the ones RPOs with play-action, together with play-action out of shotgun (as you noticed in the clip above). This is a key building as it displays what this emblem of a Shanahan offense seems like for Tagovailoa. In Shanahan’s scheme, play-action from below middle is a core idea, however Tagovailoa and McDaniel have succeeded to this point in operating it with the quarterback in shotgun formations, as smartly.
According to TruMedia, Tagovailoa has taken 35 dropbacks the usage of play-action, 13 of which got here in shotgun. On the ones performs, Tagovailoa is 10-of-12 for 150 passing yards (with a median of 12.5 yards in step with try) with a landing, an interception, and a passer score of 111.8. Those performs constitute the marriage of the Shanahan scheme and Tagovailoa’s ability set and most popular enjoying taste, they usually’re operating for Miami. Non-play-action dropbacks are operating, too: Tagovailoa posted a league-high 0.57 anticipated issues added on the ones performs in Week 2. The Dolphins had been at all times going to wish to to find performs that labored to exchange a few of their RPO calls in the event that they had been going to change into extra explosive and make the most of their staff. So a ways, they have got.
The superb information for the Dolphins is that there must be extra fruit on the vine. While the passing offense has exceeded expectancies, Miami’s operating sport hasn’t been very thrilling or dynamic. The Dolphins lately rank twenty fifth in the NFL in yards in step with try at 3.7. This is in spite of the undeniable fact that their offensive line hasn’t been horrible, rating 18th in ESPN’s run block win charge thru two video games. McDaniel got here to Miami having been the run sport coordinator for one in all the league’s most efficient dashing offenses, and he has two excellent, fast backs in Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert and a fullback in Alec Ingold who can help with blockading tasks must the offensive line fight. The operating sport was once intended to be the factor that may buoy the Dolphins offense in the match that the passing sport was once disjointed, and if it begins to kick in as the offensive line jells and McDaniel will get in a groove as a first-time play caller, it is going to give Miami some other card to play.
The large query now could be whether or not this abruptly explosive Miami offense will make the Dolphins aggressive this Sunday in opposition to their no. 1 nemesis, the Buffalo Bills. Miami has misplaced 9 of its previous 10 video games to Buffalo (together with playoffs), and was once outscored by means of the Bills 61-11 in two video games final season. And the 2022 Bills seem even more potent, having scored 72 issues (and allowed simply 17) in two video games (each in opposition to 2021 playoff groups). But Miami is definitely more potent offensively, too, and must input this sport with self assurance in its overhauled offense. Miami is proving that this offense can paintings, and Tagovailoa can excel in it. If this yr’s effects proceed to turn that he’s greater than in a position to executing McDaniel’s scheme and developing explosive performs with Waddle and Hill, he must in any case earn a better dedication from the group. Which, as they’re more likely to say, they believed in all alongside.