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When Could Tua Start His First Game for the Dolphins?

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

When Could Tua Start His First Game For the Dolphins?

Tuanigamanuolepola Tagovailoa, the namesake behind Dolphins fans’ “Tank for Tua” movement, was selected with the fifth overall pick, answering the calls of the Dolphins’ fans. But despite not having to trade up for the quarterback, how they ended up with Tua may not have been the most ideal way.

Following an injury-riddled season (that concluded with surgery on a potential career-threatening hip injury), executives and football fans alike began to question not just when Tua would take his first snap in the NFL, but if he could even play in the NFL given his injury history at Alabama. Since then, Tua was cleared by doctors and with a video of his rehab being released late last week, one question is being asked more than before: when will the fifth overall pick play his first game?

 

 

 

Week 1

TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA – NOVEMBER 09: Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates throwing a touchdown pass during the second quarter against the LSU Tigers in the game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 09, 2019, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

There is a growing sense that the left-handed phenom could push journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick out before the season even starts. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins are not against playing Tua this season as long as he earns his place as a starter. Also, just this morning Mike Freeman doubled down on this in his 10-Point-Stance, stating that “every coach he has spoken to believes that the rookie signal-caller will be the starter come week one”. Aside from Fitzpatrick, the only thing standing in Tua’s way is his medical history. This may cause the Dolphins to be more cautious with Tagovailoa, but if he is 100% as he says when they arrive for training camp, don’t be shocked if he takes over the starting role.

Miami’s revamped roster and put a lot more eyes on the team immediately should this transpire. After opening the season against a Belichick led defense the young quarterback would then have to face the Bills, Broncos, and the entire NFC West before midseason. If Tua is able to lead the Dolphins to a positive record in this stretch: he will have pressure on him to lead the team to the postseason in a Brady-less division.

If Tua is the starter for the Dolphins opener it could be the beginning of a new era for Miami.

Week 7

(Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Brain Flores could unveil Tua to the world when the Dolphins return home to play the Chargers in week 7. It probably is not too likely to be Tua’s first start for the team, but could happen if Fitzpatrick struggles when the team travels out west to play the 49ers and Broncos in consecutive weeks. 

This would align with how other first-round picks like Carson Palmer, Baker Mayfield and Jared Goff began their careers. All started their rookie years on the bench while a veteran started in their place for the time being. This will likely be the method the Dolphins take with Tua; let Fitzpatrick play while the offensive line is figured out, then make the change once they feel Tua is ready. 

While the young quarterback would avoid playing the Seahawks and 49ers, he would have to face three premier pass rushers in as many weeks. After making his first start against Joey Bosa (who only has 0.5 career sacks against Miami in three games); he would be in the crosshairs of Aaron Donald and Chandler Jones the following two weeks. That’s not ideal for a quarterback coming in with questions surrounding his durability, so the Dolphins would have to be desperate to play him during this stretch.

This game could also serve as the first matchup between Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa. The Dolphins did their share of work on both prospects but ultimately went with Tua on draft night after being rumored to prefer Herbert. Both quarterbacks are presumed to be starting the year on the bench, but they both could overtake the veterans in front of them by the end of the season.

 

Week 11 

(Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Tua could very well start his first game for the Dolphins when they travel to New Jersey to take on the Jets. This would again likely depend on Fitzpatrick’s play, but would also make the most sense if Tua was to play this season. Not only are the Dolphins coming off of a bye week in week 11, but they play the Jets in week 9. This would give Tua an extra week to prepare for his first game, and to make things even easier it would be against a team he just watched from the sideline. 

This would throw their rival off as well. With Fitzpatrick having started the game prior: the Jets would likely spend their time preparing for him to start until hearing otherwise. Giving Tua two weeks to study how the Jets played the Dolphins offense could give him the upper hand in his first start and put some new life into the team if they’re pushing for the playoffs. Teams often utilize the bye week to make decisions regarding quarterback controversy/transition, and the Dolphins could very well do the same as they prepare for the Jets in week 11.

The Dolphins also host the Bengals the following week in what could be the third matchup between Burrow and Tagovailoa. It is doubtful that the Dolphins roll Tua out there for such a closely watched game with no experience, so they may roll him out a week prior after the bye week if he has yet to overtake Fitzpatrick.

Next Season

(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

It is a possibility that Tua redshirts his first season if Fitzpatrick plays as well as he did last year. While Ryan Fitzpatrick has been streaky for his entire career, he put together one of the best seasons of his career this past season. With his play last year, Fitzpatrick earned the right to be the starter on opening day, and if he is able to sustain his level of play from last year it would make little sense to throw Tua out there. The Chiefs redshirted Patrick Mahomes (aside from starting the season finale against Denver) in his first season and both parties benefited tremendously from it. While it will be difficult for Tua to match Mahomes’ level of play, why not give Tua a year to rest and put an end to the injury concerns? It’s also worth mentioning the Dolphins hold $80 million in cap space next offseason along with the Texans’ first two picks in the draft; the Dolphins could see where the team stands without Tua this season, then use those resources to put Tua in the best position to win in his first season as a starter. Letting the offensive line and team development while the rest of the Fitzmagic runs out could prove to be wise, as not only will the questions surrounding Tua’s health be gone, but the ones about the talent around him will as well. 

Whether he starts his first game this season or the next: Dolphins fans will be banging the table for Tua from day one. Will Stephen Ross rush him on to the field to satisfy the fans or will Fitzpatrick hold the rookie off for a season?

 

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