In 2019, there was lots of chatter about the Miami Dolphins’ rumored (read: unspoken) goal to “Tank for Tua,” and now that perception has become reality: Hawaii’s Tua Tagovailoa is now a Miami Dolphin. The former Saint Louis Crusaders standout was the fifth overall selection in last week’s NFL Draft. So what’s next for the former Heisman Trophy candidate? Will he start from day one? What type of offense will the Dolphins run? And what weapons will Tua have at his disposal? Here’s what we forecast:
From Sandy Beach to South Beach! Tua Tagovailoa is a Miami Dolphin.
HIS TEAM: The Dolphins went 5-11 last season, finishing at the bottom of the AFC’s East Division. Miami was a combined 18-30 over the past three seasons. The last time they made the playoffs was 2016, and the last time the Dolphins won a playoff game was in 2000. The good news is, the Tom Brady-less New England Patriots are seemingly on the decline, the Buffalo Bills have to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke, and the New York Jets were just one game above Miami. In other words, the division should be more wide open in 2020.
HIS MONEY: According to OverTheCap.Com, as the draft’s fifth overall selection, Tua’s slotted salary amount is $30,275,436. He’ll get to keep more of his salary, too, as Florida does not have state taxes.
HIS HEAD COACH: Brian Flores is in his second season as Miami’s head coach. At 39, he is the second-youngest head coach in the NFL (the L.A. Rams’ Sean McVay is 34). Before joining Miami, Flores spent 14 seasons with the Patriots’ organization, starting as a scouting assistant and ending his tenure as the team’s linebackers coach. A former linebacker at Boston College, Flores is a respected defensive mind who sought to instill a winning culture in South Beach. After a rough start – the Dolphins lost their first four games last season by an average of 34 points – Flores has done just that. The ‘Fins won their final two games of the season, including the 27-24 finale over New England.
HIS POSITION COACHES: Chan Gailey was lured out of retirement last December to serve as Miami’s offensive coordinator. The 68-year-old Gailey, whose career portfolio includes head coaching stints at Dallas and Buffalo, is expected to implement a spread-type attack that is well-suited for Tua’s skill set. New QB coach Robby Brown has experience working with Gailey. Most recently, Brown was an assistant on the West Virginia coaching staff.
HIS COMPETITION: Fifteen-year NFL veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is the incumbent starter at QB. In 2019, his first season in Miami, he put up 3,529 passing yards and 20 TDs with 13 picks. Not great numbers, but serviceable. It’s clear that Fitzpatrick is a simply placeholder for Tua until the younger QB is deemed ready to take over the offense. At the very least, Fitzgerald should serve as a capable mentor for the rookie this season. Even better, Tua won’t be under pressure to have to play right away and will have more time, if needed, to get fully healthy. Josh Rosen, the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft, remains on the Dolphins’ roster – for now.
HIS WEAPONS: There’s not much here, honestly. There’s a reason Miami finished 25th in the league in total offense in 2019 – and dead last in rushing offense (72.3 rushing yards per game). Five different NFL running backs had more rushing yards last season than the entire Dolphin ground attack combined. To that end, Miami signed former 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Howard during the March free agency period. This past Saturday, they also traded for former San Francisco 49ers RB Matt Breida. When Tua throws the ball, his primary target will be sixth-year WR DeVante Parker, who posted career highs last season in receptions (72), receiving yards (1,202) and TDs (9).
HIS PROTECTION: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said it himself: “Good News for Tua!” He said that right before announcing the Dolphins’ selection of former USC offensive tackle Austin Jackson with the draft’s 18th overall pick. Miami wasn’t done, either. They later drafted another OT (Louisiana-Lafayette’s Robert Hunt) in the second round and a guard (Georgia’s Solomon Kindley) in Round 4. That’s nearly half a ton of solid beef added to the team’s offensive line. The Dolphins smartly aimed to provide protection for their new QB investment.
HIS OPPONENTS: Assuming the NFL season goes as planned, the Dolphins will have a tough slate of non-divisional opponents, including the defending Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs at home and NFC champions San Francisco 49ers on the road. Another intriguing matchup is a road game against the Las Vegas Raiders, who last month signed Marcus Mariota, Tua’s former teammate and mentor at Saint Louis School. Other home games on the 2020 schedule include Cincinnati (Joe Burrow!), L.A. Chargers, L.A. Rams and Seattle. (One of the Dolphins’ home games will be played in London or Mexico City.) Miami’s other non-divisional road games will be against Jacksonville, Denver and Arizona. As for Miami’s division rivals, it’s interesting to note that the New York Jets (Sam Dsrnold), Buffalo Bills (Josh Allen) and New England Patriots (Jarrett Stidham?) are all building around young QBs. In other words, the AFC East should be a competitive division for years to come.
Marcus vs Tua in 2020? It could happen.
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