Tua Tagovailoa shined Sunday in what was his first truly signature moment with the Dolphins.
But for his coaches and teammates, the best is yet to come.
“You guys got to see what we see on a daily basis of his mentality at practice. The next play is an opportunity to maximize that moment,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Frank Smith told The Athletic. “That was a really cool opportunity for him to show the rest of the world how hard he is working to be the best he can be each Sunday.”
There’s been plenty of pressure, external or otherwise, on Tagovailoa to break out in his third season. The fifth pick of the 2020 draft, taken one selection before Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, starred at Alabama but had been inconsistent in his first couple of years in Miami, partly due to offensive scheme changes each season.
But with offensive savant Mike McDaniel as the new head coach along with the pairing of speed receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, the pieces were put in place for a QB-friendly environment. Tagovailoa has delivered so far, leading the NFL with 739 passing yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also sixth in completion percentage (71.1) and fourth in passer rating (116.5).
Of course, a sizable portion of that production occurred Sunday in the fourth quarter during the Dolphins’ 42-38 comeback victory against the Ravens, as Tagovailoa completed 14 of his final 18 passes for 232 yards and four touchdowns to erase a 35-14 deficit. He outdueled former MVP Lamar Jackson’s four-TD day to steal the show.
“I don’t think any of us are truly surprised at all,” Smith said. “We’re seeing an extension of his practice habits going into the game. When you have excellent practice habits and you treat practice like the game, that’s when you really see the performance like he was able to have.”