Tua Tagovailoa is giving Dolphins fans every reason to believe they might've found themselves a franchise quarterback and this weekend the Patriots will get their first up-close look at the talented first-rounder. It's still early, but since being inserted into the lineup, the rookie has shown well for himself.
If the Patriots are to bounce back after their loss to the Rams, they'll need to find a way to force Tua into looking like a rookie, similar to how they did to Justin Herbert two weeks ago.
"He gets rid of the ball very quickly, doesn't hold it much, sees coverage well, has taken good care of the ball, hasn't thrown the ball to the defense," commented Bill Belichick this week. "But, you know, sees what he's got, understands the pressure, understands the timing of routes, gets the ball out quickly and has enough quickness in the pocket to make it difficult for the pass rush to get to him. He can run a little bit, but he's more, I would say, of a quicker guy in the pocket that's elusive and really wants to throw more than he wants to run."
Veteran captain Devin McCourty was similarly impressed with Tua's first starts in the NFL. McCourty and the secondary will be responsible for derailing Tagovailoa's ascending passing stats, with him cracking 300 yards for the first time in his career last week against the Chiefs after throwing for 296 against the Bengals.
"Decision making, strong arm, puts the ball in the right place," said McCourty of what stands out on film from Tua. "I think when you talk about that poise, and I think he has nine or 10 touchdowns and only one interception, it comes from understanding what you have on a play, when you can take a chance, when it's there, when it's not there so I wanna check down, throwing the ball away. You can see why they've had a lot of success with him as their quarterback.
Fellow safety and leading tackler Adrian Phillips added that Tua isn't afraid to go to his other options, making a late run against the Chiefs with weaponry from down the Dolphins depth chart.
"He gets the ball out fast, he goes to his whole progression," said Phillips. "When you talk about rookies, from time to time, they usually zero in on a specific route and if that route isn't there, then they take off. But this is a guy that goes through each progression and he can make you miss in the pocket."
McCourty pointed out that Tagovailoa is just the latest of a group of young quarterbacks who have stepped to the forefront in recent seasons and will be the league's next generation.
"There's a new crop of guys, call it from rookie to third and fourth year, that have really taken the league by storm," said McCourty. "We played a lot of them this year, but I'd say overall, there's just a lot of them in the league so there's really no way to avoid them."
The Patriots have traditionally had good success against younger quarterbacks and they'll need another great effort in Miami. Phillips said the Patriots were keeping their focus on Miami and finishing strong, no matter how the chips might fall.
"That's mainly our mindset, just end with the best record possible," said Phillips. "We got three games left, go out there and win them. You never know what can happen around the league. Just do our part and just end the best way that we can. It starts with Miami. "
Webex Quotes of Note
Damiere Byrd on the Dolphins physical cornerbacks, led by Xavien Howard:
"We saw these guys Week 1, since the season's so long things can change but, like you said, these guys are good players. They've been good players in this league for a number of years. They're physical guys, they like to get in your face, play man-to-man and so that's what we're expecting. Release is very important, if they get hands on you it's pretty much over. We'll be working hard to get good releases and try to beat that all week to prepare for the game."
Gunner Olszewski on what Troy Brown has meant to him this season:
"He's back there with me every step of the way, in practice and even pregame, every punt I catch Troy's standing right behind me saying all the things he's been saying since training camp, 'get under the ball, look it all the way in, tuck it away,' all these things. So when I go back there in a game, my eyes are on Troy he kinda gives me the call. When I line up I can still kind of hear his voice when the ball gets punted in the air. It's the small things that really make those big returns happen. You know you can't start until you catch it, so he's been a huge help and having somebody like that that I can just go talk to is obviously huge and every step of the way, practice, game, is pretty great. "
Joe Thuney on the Dolphins defense:
"Their defense plays really hard. Great at taking the ball away, physical, fast. They do a lot of great stuff. It's going to be a challenge. It's a late-season game inside the division so you know it's going to be intense and heated and I'm looking forward to it."