Thursday, December 01, 2022

Omar Kelly: Tua Tagovailoa puts the Dolphins in winning position with early drives, late game success. Then what in between?

Omar Kelly: Tua Tagovailoa puts the Dolphins in winning position with early drives, late game success.  Then what in between?

If the Miami Dolphins can get Tua Tagovailoa to perform consistently this season in the game’s opening campaign and in the fourth quarter, Miami’s offense, and possibly the season, will begin.

While Miami’s second-year starter all-around talent hasn’t always allowed Tagovailoa to shine, he has somehow managed to excel in those two important and tell-tale areas. And if these trends continue on Sunday against a stingy Carolina Panthers defense, it should serve as proof that the Dolphins have a quarterback’s worth of building.

Tagovailoa’s opening campaigns this season prove that when the Dolphins stick to the script—executing plays they rehearse all week—they succeed.

In the first week against the New England Patriots, Tagovailoa was 4-for 4 for 49 passing yards, and he made it to a game-opening touchdown.

In the second week, he was dismissed twice by the Buffalo Bills on the first drive, which ended in a punt. He suffered a rib injury in the next series which sidelined him for three weeks.

When he returned against the Jacksonville Jaguars a month later, he was passing 8-10-10 for 76 yards and threw a touchdown pass on the opening drive.

A week after that, Tagovailoa scored an 8 of 7 for 52 passing yards in an opening drive against the Atlanta Falcons, which ended in another touchdown pass.

In his second game against the Bills, he was 4-of-7 for 38 yards on the first drive, which culminated in Jason Sanders missing a field goal.

And last week against the New York Jets, Tagovailoa was 6-for-6 for 61 yards, and Jaylen Waddle drove it for a 1-yard touchdown to close the drive.

Tagovailoa has completed 29 of 35 passes for 276 yards, including two touchdowns through the air and one rushing touchdown in all of his opening drives this season.

Miami has scored four opening-drive touchdowns in six games and Tagovailoa is on top and missed a field goal.

Against the Raiders, Colts, Buccaneers, Texans and Ravens without him, the Dolphins finished the game’s first drive with four punts and a field goal.

If the Dolphins can get the offense for more than the first series to match Tagovailoa’s opening-drive efficiency, it is possible that the offense could help this team score more points than the team’s 18.3 per game average. Tagovailoa is working to address this.

“I would say after our first series the kind of things that bothered me are the second, third, fourth series, when we stop and are shooting ourselves in the foot with the ball rolling in the second series, Said Tagovailoa, who has thrown six interceptions this season.

Everything is written down for those first series, where Miami works on the plays until they have fully rehearsed them.

But when the defense adjusts to Miami’s game plan on the second drive, or when the script runs out, the Dolphins’ offense breaks down.

Miami led their opponents 62–39 in the first quarter, but went down 70–28 in the second quarter and 55–28 in the third quarter.

“I think aggressively, I need to help my guys do a better job in this upcoming game with the second quarter, the third quarter,” Tagovailoa said. “Still playing at a high level and we have to go strong in the fourth quarter.”

Miami’s scoring accelerates in the fourth quarter, where the Dolphins are behind opponents 99–80.

Tagovailoa shone in the fourth quarter. Since Week 6, Tagovailoa has completed 37 of 49 passes (75.5 percent) for 458 yards, throwing four touchdowns and two interceptions in the final frame of those games.

His 458 fourth quarter passing yards have been the top of the NFL since then, while his 37 completions and his 114.2 rating are fourth. Tagovailoa has also given quick touchdowns in the two quarters.

Last week’s 24-17 win over the Jets was credited as the third win of his career when the team returned to the fourth quarter.

For Miami’s offense to hit on all cylinders, the run game had to be believable, especially in the run-pass-substitute element of the offense, which characterizes Tagovailoa.

Without the balance provided by the run game, Miami will find itself in difficult down-and-distance situations, and this is where safety has often become an issue.

Miami’s struggling offensive line should be reliable, giving players time to work the open downfield and pocket Tagovailoa.

His out-of-pocket presence is one of the best features, but Tagovailoa needs some protection to make big downfield plays, as we have seen in the last two games.

Miami’s offensive line has been one of the NFL’s worst for the past few seasons, but this year’s struggling unit took a step in the right direction last week when they delivered their second sack-free game of the season.

An offensive Panthers defense, ranked third in the NFL with 30 sacks, and third-down defense (34.3 percent conversion rate), will clearly test Miami’s line on Sunday.

“We see a lot more of them,” right guard Austin Jackson said of the performance against the Jets, with the offensive line leading the way for 115 rushing yards. “We’re not afraid to criticize ourselves and admit that we’re not doing some things well, so we have to do better. We just keep that mindset and take it day by day.” .

The hope is that as the offensive line improves and the run game remains consistent, Tagovailoa, who owns an 8-7 record as an NFL starter, will continue to find ways to put Miami in a game-winning position.

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