Tua Tagovailoa

Tua Tagovailoa: Hip Feels ’10 Times Better’ Than In 2020

Had Tua Tagovailoa‘s November 2019 hip injury not occurred, the 2020 draft may have played out differently. But the Dolphins still selected the prized Alabama prospect fifth overall. Tagovailoa battled inconsistency as a rookie, however.

The young southpaw quarterback acknowledged Wednesday he dealt with hip pain during his rookie season. Tagovailoa added (via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Safid Deen, on Twitter) his hip feels “10 times better” than it did last season.

Tua is now 18 months removed from the right hip dislocation that ended his Crimson Tide career. The 23-year-old passer said he has been able to go through an extensive full-body strength regimen this offseason, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, whereas his 2020 offseason consisted largely of medical exams and rehab. The Dolphins passed Tua on a physical last February, and he continued to trend in the right direction ahead of the season. Despite owner Stephen Ross being concerned about Tagovailoa’s health, Brian Flores promoted him to the starting role in mid-October — less than 11 months after the hip injury.

Tagovailoa ranked 26th in Total QBR as a rookie — behind No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow and well behind No. 6 choice Justin Herbert — and was benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick on multiple occasions. The second-year QB now admits his playbook comprehension left a bit to be desired.

Last year, for me, I wasn’t as comfortable just in general. I wasn’t comfortable calling plays,” Tagovailoa said, via ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe. “I just didn’t have the comfortability of checking plays, alerting plays. I just rode with the play, even if I knew it wasn’t going to work. I was going to try to make it work.

I didn’t actually know the playbook, necessarily, really, really good, and that’s no one else’s fault but my fault. Our play calls were simple when I was in. I didn’t have alerts and checks. Where now, I feel comfortable and I can maneuver my way through these things.”

Though they were loosely connected to Deshaun Watson, the Dolphins equipped Tagovailoa with new wideouts Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle. With Fitzpatrick now in Washington, Tagovailoa will have the chance to start 17 games. Though the Dolphins are expected to push for the playoffs, inviting more scrutiny on their quarterback, he will almost certainly be in better position to succeed in 2021.

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Pats, Bears, Washington Pursued Deshaun Watson; Dolphins Prepared Big Offer

Prior to Aaron Rodgers taking his turn as the centerpiece of 2021’s complex quarterback saga, Deshaun Watson resided there. However, the Texans quarterback’s legal issues ground trade rumors to a halt. Prior to that happening, however, a fourth of the league pursued him.

While several of Watson’s suitors have been known, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports (via the Sporting News) the Patriots, Bears and Washington were among the eight teams to express interest in three-time Pro Bowler. The others were previously known suitors — the Broncos, Dolphins, Jets, Panthers and 49ers. The 49ers have kept tabs on Watson this offseason, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. San Francisco also has inquired about Rodgers’ availability.

It certainly is not surprising the Bears and Washington reached out. Both teams have sought QB answers for a bit. Each moved on, but the Andy Dalton and Ryan Fitzpatrick deals are stopgaps. The Patriots join as a clear connection, having employed Texans honchos Nick Caserio and Jack Easterby previously. The Pats re-signed Cam Newton but are on the radar to trade up for a quarterback tonight.

In addition to this octet of teams interested in a quarterback the Texans had previously refused to discuss in trades, McClain adds the Dolphins were preparing a big offer for the passer. Tua Tagovailoa was to be included in the proposal. As was the No. 3 overall pick. A future Dolphins offer would be different, with the team having traded that pick to the 49ers.

Dolphins GM Chris Grier has backed Tagovailoa on multiple occasions this offseason but has not been shy about making seismic deals — as the trade with the 49ers or the 2019 Laremy Tunsil deal showed. Tagovailoa was mentioned in Watson rumors at one point.

This market could heat up again at some point, but a few of these teams will have moved on to long-term QBs by Thursday’s end. The Jets and 49ers are prepared to select quarterbacks tonight. The Broncos and Patriots may do so as well, with Washington and Chicago looming as trade-up candidates. The Watson market has been on pause for several weeks now. More than 20 women have accused the 25-year-old passer of sexual misconduct or sexual assault.

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Dolphins Won’t Draft Tagovailoa Replacement

Before sexual abuse lawsuits were filed against Deshaun Watson, the Dolphins were among the favorites to land the Texans’ signal-caller (if Houston actually agreed to trade him, of course). If that happened, then Miami’s own QB, Tua Tagovailoa, would either be in Houston as part of the trade return or playing second fiddle to Watson on the Dolphins’ bench.

While a Watson trade seems like an impossibility at this point, there has been plenty of chatter that Miami could nonetheless seek a Tagovailoa upgrade in the draft. The club is armed with the No. 3 and No. 18 overall selections, and while Trevor Lawrence will be selected by the Jaguars at No. 1 overall, the Dolphins could be in a position to land a passer like BYU’s Zach Wilson or Ohio State’s Justin Fields.

But as Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes, the Dolphins will not draft a Tagovailoa replacement in this year’s draft. Salguero says the consensus in the scouting community is that the club is not looking to draft a QB with the No. 3 pick, and that Miami might even trade down from that selection in order to accumulate even more draft capital. As such, unless they’re absolutely in love with Alabama’s Mac Jones or another collegiate QB that could be available later on in the first round, the Dolphins appear set to roll with their second-year southpaw. Apparently, the only quarterback they would have considered to replace Tagovailoa would have been Watson.

GM Chris Grier said back in January that Tagovailoa would be the team’s starter — though he did decline to say whether the team would consider drafting a quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick — and head coach Brian Flores said earlier this month that he was excited to work with his young passer. As expected, though, that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from churning.

After all, Tagovailoa had something of an up-and-down rookie campaign, and Flores turned to Ryan Fitzpatrick as a “reliever” during several of Tagovailoa’s more difficult outings. But the No. 5 overall pick of the 2020 draft also showed some flashes, and he will be given a chance to make a sophomore leap.

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Latest On Dolphins, Tua Tagovailoa

With increasing chatter of a blockbuster trade for Deshaun Watson, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores did his best to back Tua Tagovailoa. In a chat with reporters this week, Flores stressed that he’s “excited” to work with the rising second-year pro.

[RELATED: Texans HC David Culley On Deshaun Watson]

You think about his situation last year, coming off the hip and throwing him into the fire,” Flores said (Twitter link via Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel). “[He] started nine games and made a lot of improvement throughout the season. Had some up and downs. I’m excited about the Year 1 to 2 jump…This time, in the offseason, is really going to be helpful to him and all the rookies. I’m excited about working with him.”

Tagovailoa averaged just 6.3 yards per throw in his his rookie season. He finished out with eleven touchdowns against five interceptions in nine starts, 1,814 total passing yards, and a ~64% completion rate. Of course, there was nothing to suggest that the former Alabama star will be a bust, and he did go 6-3 as a starter. However, some have wondered whether the ‘Fins confidence in him has wavered, especially since they deployed Ryan Fitzpatrick as a reliever. Regardless of Tagovailoa’s long-term potential, Watson would give them a far better chance to win straight away.

Between Tagovailoa and the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft, the Dolphins could present the Texans with the best package of any club in the Watson sweepstakes. Still, new head coach David Culley continues to insist that Watson will be staying put. Meanwhile, in Miami, Flores says that he’ll continue to build the offense around Tagovailoa.

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Deshaun Watson Won’t Veto Many Teams, Dolphins Favorite To Land Him?

The Deshaun Watson saga will likely take at least several more twists and turns before it’s finally resolved, and we’ve got a couple of new updates to pass along. The Texans are still insisting they have no plans to trade the star quarterback, but that hasn’t stopped teams from trying.

When/if the Texans finally relent to Watson’s trade demand, he does have some leverage in the form of a no-trade clause that can prevent him from getting dealt somewhere he doesn’t want to be. But it sounds like Watson’s main priority is getting out of Houston, and he won’t be too picky about a new destination. “Let me be very clear about this: I think Deshaun Watson is going to be open about where he’s traded to. I don’t think he’s going to veto too many teams. He wants to go anywhere other than the Texans,” Adam Schefter of ESPN.com said recently, via Barry Jackson and Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald.

That makes it sound like unlike Matthew Stafford, who reportedly wanted to go play for Sean McVay and the Rams, Watson will just be happy to be anywhere else. There was a report last week that Watson would prefer the Jets to the Dolphins, but clearly he doesn’t feel all that strongly about it. That certainly could make facilitating a deal a lot easier. Additionally, it looks like the Dolphins could be emerging as a favorite to land him despite their recent commitment to Tua Tagovailoa.

Jackson and Beasley write that the “sense among league power brokers at this week’s Senior Bowl” is that “Miami is Watson’s likeliest destination.” Going further, one source told them that “Miami is seen as the front-runner behind the scenes.” The Dolphins have a boatload of draft capital and also a young quarterback they could trade, although there have been some reports that Houston might not be that interested in Tagovailoa.

If the Texans don’t want Tua, Jackson and Beasley float a scenario where the Dolphins package picks with shutdown corner Xavien Howard, who they write is “expected to ask for a trade” if he doesn’t get the new contract that he’s seeking. There are a lot of moving parts here, and we should know a lot more soon so make sure to check back.

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Deshaun Watson Eyeing Jets Over Dolphins?

As the Texans progress on their slow-moving head coaching search, Deshaun Watson‘s discontent with the franchise appears to remain. The quarterback is eyeing destinations for a potential trade out of Houston.

The Texans have received calls on Watson, whose unhappiness surfaced more than two weeks ago, but have not budged yet. However, multiple AFC East teams look to be in play for the quarterback whose contract contains a no-trade clause. Watson is interested in playing for the Dolphins or Jets, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports, but at this point would prefer a Jets deal.

Watson is believed to have told people this week he would rank the Jets over the Dolphins among destinations, due largely to the latter’s Robert Saleh hire. Watson wanted the Texans to include the former 49ers DC in their coach search, per Salguero. The Texans did not interview Saleh.

Both teams make sense as prospective Watson suitors. Each has two first-round picks this year, with both teams holding top-three selections. Both teams have former top-five QBs on the roster already, but Saleh stopped short of committing to Sam Darnold for 2021. Dolphins GM Chris Grier did name Tua Tagovailoa the team’s 2021 starter. This is not the first time the Dolphins have surfaced in prospective Watson trade talks, however. Tagovailoa would likely be a Texans target if the teams discussed Watson.

The Jets and Dolphins reside on the low end as far as skill-position talent goes, joining the Texans in that sector. Each team has a need at wide receiver. As of now, the Jets far outflank the Dolphins in cap space ahead of what could be a robust receiver market. Gang Green is projected to hold more than $60MM in cap room; Miami is projected to possess just more than $20MM.

It is believed Watson could pry three first-round picks in a trade, though a top-three pick headlining the package could change that equation. As of now, the Texans view Watson as their cornerstone player. Both Cal McNair and Nick Caserio have pledged the 25-year-old Pro Bowler will be back in Houston next season. For now, however, Watson remains a disgruntled employee. Considering the rare trade value he possesses, speculation on destinations will continue.

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Deshaun Watson Considering Trade Demand?

Multiple reports over the past few days have indicated that quarterback Deshaun Watson is unhappy with the Texans, and Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com has thrown his hat into the ring. Mortensen says that the rumblings about Watson’s displeasure are accurate, and that Watson could even demand a trade (Twitter links).

In addition to Watson’s concerns about how the Texans’ GM search unfolded, which we have already detailed, Mortensen says the three-time Pro Bowl passer continues to be concerned about the team’s insensitivity to social justice issues. In Watson’s view, that insensitivity manifested itself in the team’s decision to not interview Chiefs’ OC Eric Bieniemy, who is black, one of the hottest head coaching candidates in this year’s cycle, and a personal favorite of Watson’s (though Mortensen clarified in a later tweet that Watson’s anger is not “strongly connected” to social justice matters and is more related to the state of the franchise).

And according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Watson is not just upset by the fact that owner Cal McNair did not consider the GM or head coaching candidates that Watson endorsed, despite assurances that he would at least take his quarterback’s opinions into account. McNair, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to have the search firm Korn Ferry assist with the GM and HC hunt, ultimately disregarded the firm’s GM recommendations. Korn Ferry tabbed Steelers vice president of football and business administration Omar Khan and current ESPN analyst Louis Riddick as the two most viable candidates for the GM position, but McNair instead forged ahead with Nick Caserio, whom he had been targeting for some time.

Schefter went on to say that Watson, whose anger level on a scale of 1 to 10 was a 2 when the team traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last year, is currently at a 10. While Caserio said in his introductory press conference that Watson is the Texans’ quarterback — thereby implying he would not trade him — Watson could certainly make life difficult for Caserio if he chooses to do so.

Interestingly, a Watson trade would not be as damaging to the Texans’ books as one might think, given that the Clemson product just signed a massive extension earlier this year. A trade would leave Houston with just $21.6MM in dead money for the 2021 season, and as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, multiple GMs believe the Texans could acquire up to three first-round picks in a Watson deal.

Watson does have a no-trade clause written into his new contract, but according to Mortensen, he would consider a trade to the Dolphins. Of course, Houston would have had the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 draft, but it traded that selection, along with its 2021 second-rounder, to Miami as part of the Laremy Tunsil swap in 2019. The Dolphins, who also hold their own first-round selection in this year’s draft (No. 18 overall) have the capital and the cap space to get a deal done.

Mortensen suggests that Tua Tagovailoa would head to Houston as part of a Watson trade, which would be a controversial and career-defining move if Caserio were to make it. Obviously, that is little more than speculation at this point, but it appears Watson’s feelings towards the Texans will be a major storyline of this offseason.

In related news, Korn Ferry named Colts DC Matt Eberflus as one of the top candidates for the Texans’ HC vacancy, according to Albert Breer of SI.com (via Twitter). McNair at least tried to interview Eberflus, but Eberflus turned down the request. Breer notes in a separate tweet that Houston is also eyeing Bills OC Brian Daboll, who has interviews lined up with the Chargers and Jets.

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Dolphins GM Chris Grier: Tua Tagovailoa Is Starting QB

One of this offseason’s most intriguing storylines may have just been nipped in the bud. Speaking at his end of season media availability, Dolphins GM Chris Grier declared Tua Tagovailoa the starting quarterback moving forward, via Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald.

“Tua we’re very happy with,” Grier said. “He’s our starting quarterback.” While Grier didn’t really hedge much, it’s worth pointing out that he did decline to answer whether the team would consider drafting a quarterback with the third overall pick, saying he wasn’t going to get into draft strategy. It’s difficult to parse this kind of coach and front office-speak, but Grier’s declaration did sound more definitive than when the Cardinals said Josh Rosen was “the guy” before promptly drafting Kyler Murray.

It sounds like the plan right now is to surround Tagovailoa with better weapons, and that will start with upgrading the receiving corp. “We’re very happy with that and looking forward to watching him progress here over the next offseason and going into next year,” Grier continued. Head coach Brian Flores also spoke to the media and said he expected his entire coaching staff back next year, including polarizing offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.

There had been an erroneous report Monday that Gailey was being let go. Flores also didn’t say whether he wanted Ryan Fitzpatrick back with the team in 2021, stating that he needed to evaluate the whole roster first. If the team really is intent on running it back with Tagovailoa, keeping Fitzpatrick would likely prove to be too much of a distraction.

Tagovailoa, of course, found himself benched for Fitzpatrick a couple of times, including in the team’s crucial Week 16 game against the Raiders when Fitzpatrick led a miracle comeback. Had Fitzpatrick not caught COVID-19, he almost certainly would’ve been inserted into their Week 17 loss to the Bills, which knocked them out of the playoffs, where Tagovailoa melted down.
Tagovailoa didn’t play all that poorly by rookie quarterback standards, but he didn’t show nearly as many flashes as Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert, and he often held onto the ball too long and took unnecessary sacks. His struggles with inefficiency led some to question whether or not the Dolphins, with their massive haul of draft picks, would consider starting from scratch with a new passer in this deep quarterback draft.
As of right now it doesn’t seem like they have any plans to do so, although it wouldn’t be too shocking if it turned out Grier and Flores were just playing media games. Tagovailoa finished his rookie season averaging 6.3 yards per attempt with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions in nine starts.

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Flores: Tua Will Remain Dolphins’ Starter

The Dolphins are now one win away from their first trip to the postseason since 2016, and they have Ryan Fitzpatrick (and a healthy dose of Raiders ineptitude) to thank for it. After Miami’s offense with QB Tua Tagovailoa under center stagnated throughout much of last night’s game against Las Vegas, head coach Brian Flores replaced the first-round rookie with the hirsute 38-year-old, and that sprinkling of FitzMagic was enough to pull out a last-second win.

Fitzpatrick completed nine of 13 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown in his limited action, and while much of that yardage came on a no-look prayer of a pass and a healthy run-after-catch from RB Myles Gaskin, the offense undeniably came to life with Fitzpatrick at the helm. That led most to assume that the veteran would start the Dolphins’ Week 17 game with the Bills next week.

But Flores said in his post-game presser that Tagovailoa remains the team’s starter and will get the call against Buffalo, as Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com was among those to report. “Tua is a young player,” Flores said. “He’s developing. He’s improving on a daily basis. He’s learning from these experiences. He’ll be better next week.”

Last night marked the second time in five games that Tagovailoa was pulled for Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter, and while Fitzpatrick wasn’t quite able to complete the comeback in Miami’s Week 11 loss to Denver, he got the job done against the Raiders. As a result, the Dolphins will clinch a playoff berth if they beat the Bills next week.

Tagovailoa’s surface-level stats look decent enough — he has completed 65.1% of his passes for 10 TDs against just two interceptions — but most of his throws are dinks and dunks, and his 6.3 yards-per-attempt average is among the worst in the league. He will need to take more downfield shots to pull out a victory over the Bills, but if he should struggle, Flores has shown he will not be afraid to send in Fitzpatrick.

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AFC Notes: Texans, Rivers, Tua, Bolles, Jets

Following the trade deadline, Deshaun Watson revealed how much of an issue a Will Fuller trade would have caused for him. Now, the Texans quarterback does not want Week 12 to have been his final game throwing to the deep threat. Despite Fuller’s six-game PED suspension set to drag into next year, Watson wants the Texans to bring back the impending free agent.

That’s very important,” Watson said of the Texans re-signing Fuller, via ESPN.com’s Sarah Barshop. “That’s definitely one guy that I’m going to be working on this last month and offseason, for sure. Will’s my brother. The whole organization knows that tooAnd you know, make sure that we get him back for next year, especially in this organization.”

A 2016 first-round pick, Fuller has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. He did in his contract year and was on pace to venture well into four-digit yardage territory. The 26-year-old receiver finished his shortened season with 53 receptions for 879 yards and eight touchdowns — all career-high numbers — and will be one of the top free agents in 2021. The Texans will have exclusive negotiating rights with Fuller until the legal tampering period begins in mid-March.

Here is the latest from the AFC, shifting first to Houston’s Week 13 opponent:

  • Philip Rivers has not missed a game due to injury as a pro, having made 235 straight starts since the Chargers let Drew Brees defect to the Saints in 2006. But Rivers appeared on the Colts‘ injury report this week, being reduced to a limited practice Thursday because of a toe malady. Praising Rivers’ toughness, Quenton Nelson revealed (via the Indianapolis Star’s Joel Erickson and Jim Ayello) the 17th-year quarterback is playing through a “really bad” foot problem presently. Rivers said he has no concerns about being able to play in Week 13.
  • Also expecting to play Sunday: Dolphins rookie Tua Tagovailoa. After Brian Flores said Tagovailoa was “very close” to being able to play against the Jets, the first-round passer expects to start this weekend against the Bengals, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald notes. Although Tua struggled in Denver and was benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick, Flores said the job is the rookie’s when he is medically cleared. Tagovailoa has been limited in both Miami practices this week.
  • Garett Bolles‘ belated breakout resulted in a big payday from the Broncos, who went from not picking up the once-embattled left tackle’s fifth-year option to signing him to a four-year, $68MM deal. That contract contains $38MM guaranteed and $21MM fully guaranteed over the first two years, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Although the $17MM-per-year figure places Bolles as the NFL’s sixth-highest-paid tackle, the full guarantee is more in line with his uneven performance through three-plus seasons. That number ranks 20th among tackles and comes in $43MM south of what the Ravens recently gave Ronnie Stanley in full guarantees.
  • More weirdness out of New York. Jets guard starter Alex Lewis did not play against the Dolphins last week, and Adam Gase said the absence was not injury-related. This may stem from a dustup between Lewis and Gase. The second-year Jets HC indicated the two had a “conversation” but stopped short of calling it a verbal altercation, SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano notes (Twitter links). Gase did not confirm if Lewis will return in Week 13. A 2019 trade acquisition, Lewis signed a three-year deal to return to the Jets in March.