The dolphins wanted to release Tua Tagovailoa. Now they unleashed him.

All the midfielders who wanted the Miami Dolphins instead From Struggling Tua Tagovailoa: Tom Brady came off to one of his worst starts ever, Deshaun Watson was suspended, and Jacoby Brissett just lost an apparently unbeaten match to the New York Jets.

Meanwhile, after the Sunday monster win back In Baltimore, Tagovailoa leads the NFL in passing yards and passing touchdowns and is No. 2 in the total QBR, while the Dolphins are 2-0 with a 77 percent chance of making the playoffs (and a 5 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl).

It is a continuation of the upward trajectory that Tua took a while ago. Since coming off the bench in Week 10 of last season, Tagovailoa has been a top-10 quarterback: he ranked eighth in the raw QBR (62.7), seventh in the passer rating (99.1), seventh in projected points added per dip (0.14), and eighth in yards per drop (6.69), according to ESPN Stats & Information Group. And it only gets better as the game goes on. In the fourth quarters over that period, Tagovailoa ranked second (80.4), fourth (111.9), sixth (0.19) and sixth (7.51) in the same stats respectively.

Last year, I wrote that Tagovailoa’s performance was a growing annoyance for the Dolphins who decided to replace him. But while he was a fan of effective and accurate throwing the ball late in the games, he struggled a lot early on – rarely getting deeper. Now, not only is Tua’s “clutch gene” still active, but he’s improving his game overall. And Tua did not improve on his short bread-and-butter passes. During his first two games in 2022, he finally tried (and completed) the big playing passes that were missing from his arsenal.

Much has been said about new coach Mike McDaniel’s offensive acumen after he was named off-season, and he has been open with the press about his assessment of Tagovailoa: McDaniel called Tua “very A “meticulous” passerby, with a peculiar feel to the game and a long track record of rising to major events. But even in its most effective form in 2021, the Tua wasn’t quite as aggressive in appearance. He finished 28th in air yards per attempt (6.92), per ESPN stats and info, and 29th in average passes passing at least 20 yards through the air (7.5 percent).

Possessing the fast receiver Tyreek Hill should have helped Tua’s short, accurate throws become explosively vertical across the run afterwards. catches. But Tagoviloa was emphatically throwing bombs. He currently ranks fourth among qualified passers in his adjusted completion percentage, with 33.7 percent of his attempts traveling at least 10 yards in the air (which ranks 11th), and 10.8 percent traveling at least 20 yards (13). The bulk of pass attempts resulted in first touchdowns (42.2 percent) from everyone else except Patrick Mahomes.

Tagovailoa developed a certain chemistry with the combination of 1-2 recipients of Hill and second year wide Jaylen Waddle. As noted before NFL’s Next Gen StatsWaddle gained more yards on the “go” verticals on Sunday (73) than he did in the whole of last season (43), and surprisingly, Hill’s 108 yard go-way against the Ravens came close to a 2021 season total (147) while playing for Mahomes. .

The full potential of this combo wasn’t unlocked until Miami’s back was on the wall in Baltimore. Before coming back, the Dolphins seemed to have hit a buzzing saw: The landing’s opening kick-back rebounded to put Tagovailoa in a hole before he even reached under center – and a blast three times from Lamar Jackson in the first half seemed to have made any attempt by Tagoviloa to get out of it in vain.

But that’s when McDaniel removed the training wheels from the attack – and Tagoviloa kicked him at full speed. He went 24 of 30 in the second half, averaging 10.63 yards per drop, and posting an amazing 99.2 QBR. His passer-by rating was approximately 150.6. And looking at where Tagoviloa was throwing the ball – especially late in the game – shows his new deep touch:

Three heatmaps of Tua Tagovailoa's pass attempts for the end of the 2021 season and the start of the 2022 season: 2021 season 10-18 weeks, 2022 season 1-2 weeks, and 2022 second half season in week 2.

Baltimore didn’t take things easy on Twa, either; Their blitz rate did not change from the first half to the second half (23.8 percent versus 23.3 percent), and their man-to-man coverage rate actually increased (34.9 percent versus 41.4 percent). They put up more defensive tackles on the field more often, however, in an effort to keep up with the Arena Dolphins encounter on the field. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Baltimore was in dime coverage on 57 percent of defensive picks in the second half (up from 20 percent in the first half), and nickels on 39 percent (up from 37 percent). In fact, for each NFL’s Next Gen Statsthe Ravens defensive backs had to cover more ground on Sunday than any secondary since the start of last season.

The extra reinforcements didn’t matter—the Tagoviloa and Miami High School traffic offense rips up Baltimore anyway.

Did McDaniel know that Tagovailoa was able to make these adjustments, or was it an emergency glass-breaking strategy? Just a month ago, Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kidd reported that the Dolphins were shopping at the end of Mike Jesicki’s court because his on-field abilities wouldn’t be put to much use in the offense; In the first week, he had one catch for one yard on one target. But on Sunday, he grabbed all four of his goals for 41 yards and touchdowns.

Only time will tell if McDaniel memorizes this fist-and-tear approach in an emergency only, or does he bombard it in the field as he pleases. Either way, defenses should respect Tagovailoa’s ability to beat them deep in a way they’ve never had before – and that could make him more effective on the short passes he’s already excelled at.

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