Opinion by Carl Mahler
This move shocked me more than anything just for the simple fact that Fitzpatrick put Miami at a .500 record going into its bye week and sat them in second place in the AFC East. The Dolphins are also trending upwards, winning two straight, while the division-leading Buffalo Bills are trending downward after losing two straight.
No Turning Back From Tagovailoa
Miami must now commit to Tagovailoa and not turn back even if his play isn’t the high-power level we’ve seen at the University of Alabama. While the game-play at the NFL level is much different, the Dolphins handed over the reigns because they feel Tagovailoa is ready and he must deliver.
That being said, all answers don’t need to be answered on Sunday. Miami and its fans must also remember Tagovailoa, while fully cleared, is not even one year removed from his hip injury and surgery and he will be heavily tested against a Los Angeles Rams defense early and often headlined by defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donald has eight sacks, two forced fumbles and 12 solo tackles already on the season.
The Dolphins need to use this extra time to build their offense around Tagovailoa, and the work begins this weekend.
Tagovailoa’s Mobility Adds to Dolphins’ Run-Game Developments
During his playing days at Alabama, Tagovailoa showed off his mobility whether it was a designed QB run or scrambling to avoid getting sacked. Over the course of his three years Tagovailoa ran on 105 attempts for 348 yards and finished with nine rushing TDs. While the numbers are not mind-blowing, Tagovailoa’s presence under center should add to the running game more than what Fitzpatrick’s provided.
Gaskin, OL Play Key Role in Tagovailoa Rushing Opportunities
Miami’s rushing attack is ranked 17th in the NFL after six games after averaging 105.2 yards per game. This is due in large part to what running back Myles Gaskin has provided for the team coming off his career-high 92 rushing yards. Depending on how well Tagovailoa feels he can run with the ball as well as how well the offensive line can block for him Sunday will determine the usage the Dolphins will string for him in the game. The newly formed OL will be the deciding factor for the success of Tagovailoa on Sunday.
Tagovailoa Takes Over for Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick’s play through the six games was not terrible at all as he was playing at a better rate than most probably expected. He amassed 1,495 passing yards, scored 10 passing TDs and tossed seven interceptions. He even had a 90-percent completion percentage game registered once this season (week three against Jacksonville).
With Tagovailoa now under center the wide receivers should be pretty excited to get a young QB to also help develop some needed chemistry for the remainder of the season. Tagovailoa talked to the media on Oct. 21 telling the reporters how he reacted to being named the starter and why he is excited for this opportunity.
“I first heard about it from Coach (Brian Flores). Coach called me and told me the news. As a player in the NFL, you’re just trying to do your best to prepare every day you can, and when your opportunity is given, it’s given. You’ve just got to be ready,” Tagovailoa said.
Tagovailoa’s Arm, Route Preferences Open Up More Miami WRs
Tagovailoa has seen first-team repetitions since arriving in South Beach, but has received 100-percent of them since entering the practices prior to the bye week.
It is reported that his favorite target is slot receiver Preston Williams, which could hurt the value of No. 1 WR DeVante Parker, but nonetheless the value of Parker to the team as a whole shouldn’t diminish.
Additionally, No. 3 WR Isaiah Ford and No. 4 WR Jakeem Grant could bolster as both has seen time out of the slot and in the short-field, a favorite target of Tagovailoa, and could add some much needed depth on the Miami offense.
Sunday will present a much clearer idea of who Tagovailoa feels more comfortable throwing to and working with as we get the first glimpse of what the Dolphins offense will look like for the foreseeable future.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. eastern inside Hard Rock Stadium.