The Miami Dolphins faced a pivotal decision this NFL offseason. Either they committed to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and built a better team around him or they needed to replace him with a star-caliber passer who could overcome a weaker supporting cast.
Once Miami fired Brian Flores and replaced him with Mike McDaniels, it became evident the organization was committed to its young quarterback. With Tagovailoa locked in as the starter, the next step became strengthening the team around him.
It’s proven to be a hectic spring for Miami. Nearly two moves have been made, including the blockbuster acquisitions of wide receiver Tyreek Hill and offensive tackle Terron Armstead. A franchise with money to spend used it, filling out this roster in a way we haven’t seen in years.
As Miami’s offseason splurge likely draws to a close, let’s examine the impact it will have on Tua Tagovailoa.
Tyreek Hill’s impact on Miami Dolphins offense
Now the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL, Hill deserves every dollar of his new contract. Patrick Mahomes rightfully gets a ton of credit for the success he had with the All-Pro wideout. However, it’s also important to remember Hill delivered his first 1,000-yard season with Alex Smith under center in 2017.
It’s understandable to focus on Hill’s unmatched speed making him the most dangerous vertical threat in the NFL. According to Player Profiler, Hill finished with the ninth-most deep targets (26) in the NFL this past season. Considering Tagovailoa’s strength isn’t the deep ball, some might see this as a bad fit.
It’s not. While he drew 26 deep targets this past season, Hill also ranked 47th in average target distance (10.7). Kansas City loved using him underneath, allowing that speed to be used in the open field. Keep in mind, McDaniel just served as offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers.
That’s notable because Deebo Samuel, an All-Pro offensive weapon, finished sixth in the NFL in yards after catch (422) on passes thrown fewer than 10 yards downfield (Pro Football Focus). Jaylen Waddle finished ninth (370) and Hill ranked 12th (347).
While Tagovailoa’s touch on deep passes can draw some question, based on his NFL numbers to date, there’s no denying he’s an accurate passer on shorter throws.
- Tua Tagovailoa stats (0-9 yards): 103.0 QB rating (10th), 78.8% completio rate (11th), 78.4 PFF grade (7th)
McDaniel is going to find plenty of ways to get Hill open on short routes and in open space. Even when he sends the speedster deep, defenses paying extra attention mean tight end Mike Gesicki and receiver Jaylen Waddle have more room to operate.
As for throws 20-plus yards downfield, let’s not discount Tagovailoa too much. He might not have attempted a lot of deep passes in 2021– ranked 36th in deep-throw rate (7.5%) – but he showed great ball placement. Among qualified passers, Tagovailoa ranked second in completion rate (48.3%) on 20-plus yard throws.
While the Dolphins might not uncork deep shots like the Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills, they’ll do it a lot more with the new personnel and coaching staff.
How Terron Armstead improves life for Tua Tagovailoa
There are reasons why Miami didn’t throw vertically a lot in 2021. More often than not, the Dolphins’ offensive line couldn’t protect its quarterback. In 11 of Tagovailoa’s starts this past season, he often found himself under siege.
- Miami Dolphins offensive line stats (Tua Tagovailoa starts): 112 pressures, 89 QB hurries
Expect that to change with Terron Armstead at left tackle. While durability is a bit of an issue, he’s a perennial Pro Bowl tackle who protects the franchise quarterback.
According to PFF, Armstead allowed just 12 total pressures across 262 pass-block snaps in 2021. A year prior, the 6-foot-5 tackle surrendered just 15 pressures and three sacks across 492 pass-block snaps.
Miami is landing an elite blocker in pass protection. He also brings even more value as a leader, mentoring young offensive linemen and helping them become better players. Paired with the addition of guard Connor Williams, Miami’s line will be a lot more experienced and significantly improved in 2022.
All of that is fantastic news for Tagovailoa. When operating from a clean pocket this past season, he posted a 103.3 QB rating with a 13-3 TD-INT ratio and completed 74.1% of his attempts. It’s a stark contrast to his 54.8 passer rating and 3-7 TD-INT ratio under pressure.
The Miami Dolphins invested in the offensive line and it comes at the perfect time. Combine that with the new scheme, a more quarterback-friendly offense and electrifying weapons, Tagovailoa could thrive in 2022.