It’s been over 22 years since Dan Marino took his last snap at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, and ever since then, the Dolphins have been searching for a franchise quarterback that could help take them back to the promised land.
The closest answer they’ve received at quarterback was Ryan Tannehill from 2012 to 2018.
During Tannehill’s tenure, Miami went 42-46 with one playoff appearance in 2016, but Tannehill suffered a torn ACL earlier in the season and was unable to play in the wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Due to the Dolphins’ misfortunes at quarterback, the franchise has only made the postseason on two occasions in the past 20 years.
It’s Tua Time
In an effort to cure their dry spell, the Dolphins elected to use the fifth pick in the 2020 draft on Tua Tagovailoa. However, due to a variety of injuries, Tagovailoa has only made 21 starts in his first two years in the league.
Tagovailoa had ups and downs in his first two seasons, but started to get in a groove during the latter half of last season. During a six-game stretch where the Dolphins went 6-0, Tagovailoa threw for 1,299 yards and eight touchdowns while posting a 101.5 quarterback rating. His passing yards haven’t jumped out yet, but there’s a reason for that.
A bulk of the Dolphins’ offense has been predicated around RPOs since Tagovailoa entered the league and that’s partially due to the offensive line struggles. Per PFF.com, the Dolphins had the worst offensive line in the league last season. As a result, Tagovailoa averaged 2.2 seconds in the pocket last season, which ranked third-worst in the NFL among quarterbacks who had at least 361 passing attempts.
Tagovailoa was able to avoid a lot of the pressure because he had one of the fastest times to throw in the NFL at 2.52 seconds. However, with the Dolphins bringing in Mike McDaniel as their new head coach this offseason, Miami’s offense should see a significant change.
One of the first decisions that McDaniel and the Dolphins made, was to bring in a playmaker to help bolster Tagovailoa’s weapons – and oh did they ever. Miami traded for three-time All-Pro wide receiver and one of the fastest receivers in NFL history, Tyreek Hill. The combo of Hill and Jaylen Waddle will make for one of the more explosive wide receiver duos in the NFL and should make life a little bit easier on Tagovailoa.
Their next course of action was to address their offensive line issues. The Dolphins did that by signing former New Orleans Saints left tackle, Terron Armstead, to a five-year, $75 million contract. Armstead is a three-time Pro Bowler, but has only appeared in 80% of his team’s offensive snaps in three seasons of his nine-year career. If Armstead is able to stay on the field, he’ll play a big part in Miami’s offensive success.
Another wrinkle in the Dolphins offense that should see a boost is the run game. Since McDaniel comes from the Kyle Shanahan tree of coaching, the run game figures to play a big part in their offense. Miami averaged the fourth-least rushing yards (92.2) per game last season. Meanwhile, McDaniel and his former team, the San Francisco 49ers, averaged the seventh-most rushing yards (124.6) per game.
Miami reshaped their running back room this offseason by bringing in Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel. Edmonds figures to lead the backfield, but if McDaniel is anything like Shanahan, we’ll most likely see a running back by committee the majority of the time. An improved running game should take pressure off Tagovailoa since it looks to be a more viable option this season.
The Dolphins have made an effort to improve the situation around Tagovailoa, and this season will most likely be the deciding factor whether or not he’s the long-term answer under center.