Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa faced high expectations entering his rookie season. After falling short, the narrative surrounding the No. 5 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft quickly shifted and many started writing him off.

In reality, Tagovailoa played well under the circumstances. He was recovering from hip surgery, didn’t have the benefit of playing in preseason games and was put in a bad situation. Despite it all, he still showed flashes as a rookie.

A Miami Herald analysis found Tagovailoa ranked 10th in passer rating among 26 rookie quarterbacks since 2000 to start at least six games for their team. 

There are still miles of untapped potential for Tagovailoa going into his second year. Coming off a strong summer in training camp and preseason, there are even more reasons for optimism. Let’s examine the specific areas he could improve to become an MVP-caliber quarterback.


Better accuracy leads to big plays

One of Tagovailoa’s greatest strengths entering the NFL Draft was his accuracy and touch on throws. Across his final two seasons at Alabama, he demonstrated surgeon-like precision on his throws.

  • Tua Tagovailoa college stats (2019-’20): 6,806 passing yards, 76-9 TD-INT ratio, 70.% completion rate

But in his first NFL season, we didn’t see that same accuracy.

While Tagovailoa officially completed 54.1% of his pass attempts last season, just 54.5% were classified as “accurate” by Pro Football Focus. For comparison, that’s 3.7% lower than the average mark for an NFL quarterback.

The data further shows exactly where his throws missed.

  • Tua Tagovailoa stats (2021): 10.1% of passes were off-target, 4.9% uncatchable pass rate

Miami recognized that putting better weapons around their franchise quarterback will help. But if Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller are going to make an impact, Tagovailoa needs to give them a chance to make plays.