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The Spotlight Series
A Footballguys Spotlight is an in-depth look at a player. His plusses and minuses are examined, and we give you our bottom-line stance on his 2022 prospects. If a player listed below doesn't yet have a link, don't worry. It's coming soon.
There is no player in fantasy more polarizing than Tua Tagovailoa. People forget that just three years ago, while at Alabama, Tagovailoa was the consensus QB1 of his draft class over both Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert. The "Tank for Tua" campaign was in full force during the 2019 season, only to see it derailed after he suffered a career-threatening hip injury midseason. Due to his injury, he slipped to the No. 5 overall pick and was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. Since then, Tagovailoa has struggled to live up to expectations and has seen Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert become superstars. The difference between them and Tagovailoa is that their franchises put them into positions to succeed, while Tagovailoa has fought an uphill battle. From injuries to poor roster construction to the Deshaun Watson saga, Tagovailoa has dealt with adversity his entire career. Now that the franchise seems to be building a team around him, can Tagovailoa finally live up to expectations and finish as a top-12 quarterback in fantasy football? Heading into year three with a new coaching staff that believes in him and an organization that is finally building around him, there are no more excuses. This is a make-or-break year for the young quarterback. Tagovailoa can finish as a low-end QB1 in 2022, and here’s why:
- He's finally healthy
- The new offensive scheme fits Tagovailoa's strengths
- The offensive line is improved
- The supporting cast is the best of his career
Tagovailoa has had his fair share of injuries in the past. From hand fractures to rib fractures to ankle procedures, he has dealt with injuries since he started playing college football. But no injury was more damaging to his career than the injury he suffered against Mississippi State that ended his college career and almost his NFL career before it got started. Tagovailoa suffered a dislocated hip with a posterior wall fracture, an injury most commonly associated with high-speed motor vehicle accidents. It’s the same injury that ended Bo Jackson’s career. While the surgery went well, he has struggled with his lower body/hip rotation for the last two years. Here is what we saw from Tagovailoa during his rookie season and the concerns about his progression from the injury.
•MIA - Deep throws have been where Tua’s issues are most pronounced. See below, he’s relying on core & arm to push the arm down the field. He doesn’t fully lean into his Right plant leg & instead rotates at the trunk. Minimal lower body/hip rotation.— Jeff Mueller, PT, DPT (@jmthrivept) December 30, 2020
It visibly effects accuracy. pic.twitter.com/vUtoskmqg4
Jeff Mueller is a trusted injury analyst, and over the last two years, he’s done an excellent job breaking down Tagovailoa’s injury history. Mueller highlighted throughout the process that it would take time for Tagovailoa to get his lower body strength back to normal, but the real test would be a mental one. With an injury as traumatic as his hip injury, it was always going to take a long time to feel 100% mentally comfortable. When you add on time missed due to other injuries and the Covid-shortened preseason his rookie year; he has been fighting an uphill battle ever since. But we have seen improvements in his throwing motion in the clip below.
here's a look at that pretty throw from tua to DVP for 37 yardsðŸŽ¯ pic.twitter.com/Oy3diDYZuq— josh houtz (@houtz) December 22, 2021
You’ll notice towards the end of last season, he started trusting his lower body more, and it showed on his downfield passes. His completion percentage, yards per attempt, true completion percentage, and advanced accuracy increased from his rookie season to his sophomore season. The proof is in the numbers, and we should expect further improvement this season. While many fans want immediate fulfillment and have high expectations, Tagovailoa’s recovery should have always garnered him more time to recover completely. The last time we saw him healthy (at Alabama), he threw for 3,966 yards and forty-three touchdowns and had an 11.2 yards per attempt in just fifteen games.
Mike McDaniel's hiring as the Dolphins’ head coach bodes well. McDaniel has coached for six different NFL teams who ran the West Coast offense, including a zone-blocking scheme. Playing quarterback in a West Coast offense requires accuracy and intelligence; two traits Tagovailoa possesses in abundance. The coach's system also utilizes shorter routes which means more 3-step and 5-step drops, allowing the ball to get out quicker to the Dolphin’s playmakers. That should, in turn, provide higher completion opportunities in the short and intermediate parts of the field. Which should then help limit turnovers. McDaniel’s offense should also incorporate plenty of play-action within the zone-read rushing attack to help keep defenses honest in crowded box situations. Despite the perception he struggles with deep balls, Tagovailoa had a deep completion percentage of 55.2 percent on passes of 20 yards or more downfield, ranking him No. 1 among 2021 quarterbacks. The issue was he only attempted a deep pass 7.5% of the time. Last season, he ranked fourth in play-action accuracy (69%), which bodes well given McDaniel's penchant for play-action calls. His decision-making is his biggest asset, and his ability to make the right decisions on throws fits this system perfectly.
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