The Miami Dolphins begin preparation on Monday for their upcoming home game against the Los Angeles Rams. Welcome to your first game week, Tua Tagovailoa.
The Dolphins’ new starting quarterback is scheduled to start his first NFL game Sunday, at Hard Rock Stadium, with his team in second place in the AFC East and one game out of a wild card berth in the conference.
And that leads to this very important question: Can Tagovailoa be good enough, fast enough, to help the Dolphins stay on track for a possible postseason berth in 2020?
We’ll see find out. But for now, let’s turn to the experts for an opinion.
What do you think, Brian Flores?
“I’m confident in all our players, to include Tua,” the Dolphins coach said the last time he spoke with the media before Sunday’s bye. “I think he’s practiced well. He works hard in meetings and walk-throughs and he’s got a good rapport with his teammates.
“Every week we go out to win, so yeah, I’m confident that if we prepare the right way, if he prepares the way he’s been preparing, I’m confident we’ll go out there and have good results. But it’s not a one-man game. I think that’s the one thing that — it’s football, so you need 11 guys on each play to go out there and play together and play as a team.
“I’m confident that we’ll be able to do that — go out and play as a team and play with great energy and hopefully good execution.”
Said another way, Flores believes if all the other players hold up their end of the bargain, Tagovailoa will hold up his end.
Plus, what’s he supposed to say? No, Tua is going to struggle?
Actually, if this was years ago, that might be the right thing to say. Because until quite recently, most rookie quarterbacks came to the pros clearly not ready to play at a high level right away.
It took awhile.
It took Drew Brees until maybe Year Three or Four.
It took Tom Brady until Year Two.
Aaron Rodgers sat for three seasons before the Green Bay Packers handed him the reins to their franchise.
Stuff didn’t always happen right away in the stone ages of 2000s.
And then something changed.
Actually, a lot of stuff changed. Defenses were limited to where they could contact receivers and how. Rules were installed to protect where quarterbacks could be touched both inside and outside the pocket. Tackling rules were changed to benefit the offense.
The game was opened up for more offensive success.
And that led to more success for young quarterbacks.
And now success for quarterbacks who are almost right out of the box is becoming more common. Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray were all pretty good right away.
But the best examples of rookie quarterbacks playing well immediately come in this year’s draft.
The Cincinnati Bengals drafted Joe Burrow No. 1 overall.
The Los Angeles Chargers drafted Justin Herbert No. 6 overall.
Both are playing well as rookies.
This delivered from the NFL Sunday evening:
▪ Burrow passed for a career-high 406 yards with three touchdowns and one interception for a 112.5 rating and added a rushing touchdown against Cleveland on Sunday
Burrow is the first rookie quarterback in NFL history with at least 400 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in a single game. Burrow has five 300-yard passing games this season, tied with Daniel Jones (2019) and Murray (2019) for the second-most 300-yard passing games by a rookie quarterback in NFL history.
Only Andrew Luck (six games in 2012) has more.
▪ Los Angeles Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert passed for a career-high 347 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 111.3 passer rating and added a rushing touchdown in the Chargers’ 39-29 win over Jacksonville.
Herbert has 1,542 passing yards in his first five career games and joins Cam Newton (1,610 passing yards) as the only quarterbacks with at least 1,500 passing yards in their first five career games in NFL history.
Herbert, who threw three touchdown passes in Week 4 and four touchdown passes in Week 5 before having a bye in Week 6, joins Watson (four consecutive games in 2017) as the only rookie quarterbacks in NFL history with at least three touchdown passes in three consecutive games.
And why do you need to know this?
Because the Dolphins drafted Tagovailoa No. 5 overall, between Burrow at No. 1 overall and Herbert at No. 6 overall.
So if those other guys are playing well for two teams who have a combined 2-9 record with them as starters, then why can’t the Dolphins and their fans be excited Tagovailoa could also have early success with a much better team around him?
Well, they can be. And they are.
“We’ve all seen it as far as his talent, he can do it,” linebacker Jerome Baker said. “I think now we’re just excited to show he can do it and show the world what he can do. Yeah. We are definitely all excited.”
Tagovailoa is also excited. But he’s not exactly predicting a bunch of 300-yard or three-touchdown games like Burrow and Herbert are authoring. He’s more subtle than that.
“Well, my goals are to do whatever I can do to help this team become successful, especially our offense,” Tagovailoa said. “Everyone knows [Ryan Fitzpatrick] has done a tremendous job... I’m blessed to be in the situation that I’m in, where I can continue to learn from a guy like Fitz, then also having the mind of (offensive coordinator] Chan [Gailey], him helping kind of put me and the offense, I guess, in a good situation.
“I think that’s what’s going to be important the next couple of weeks and the entire season.”
Well, it’s true, that all will be important. But most important?
How quickly Tua Tagovailoa goes from his first game week as the Dolphins starter to a successful NFL quarterback.