The Tua Tagovailoa we saw against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday was pretty much the big-time playmaker who dazzled during his time at the University of Alabama.
That was one of offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's takeaways Tuesday morning when he discussed the Miami Dolphins quarterback's performance in the team's 34-31 victory at State Farm Stadium.
Tagovailoa had a truly impressive bounce-back performance after a rough NFL starting debut, completing 20 of 28 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns, along with seven rushes for 35 yards.
Gailey said Tua looked just like the player he had seen on tape in the pre-draft scouting process.
"It looks like it to me," Gailey said. "I can't see a real difference. So physically is the one thing that you had the concern about and I think he kind of relieved all our thoughts about that the other night."
Tagovailoa's scrambling, which featured some nifty jukes to escape oncoming rushers, might have been the most impressive part of his performance against Arizona.
Gailey said Tagovailoa only figures to get better the more game experience he gets.
"As he plays more, the game will slow down," Gailey said. "He is able to see things better. He is able to feel the game. He has a tremendous feel for the game. That allows him to see some things, do some things, throw the ball in some spots that other people might not do. I think he just went out and played the game. He didn't care who was there or who wasn't there. He was playing the game. That's what you like about him. He doesn't think about adversity. He thinks about, 'OK, how can we go be successful?' That will carry a person a long way."
Tagovailoa was remarkably consistent against the Cardinals, as his quarter-by-quarter stats prove:
In the first quarter, he was 5-for-7 for 58 yards.
In the second quarter, he was 7-for-10 for 100 yards with one touchdown.
In the third quarter, he was 2-for-3 for 23 yards, his low number of attempts a reflection of the Arizona offense having the ball most of the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, he was 6-for-8 for 67 yards with his second touchdown.
Along with the touchdown pass to Mack Hollins, Tagovailoa had a key 19-yard completion to Mike Gesicki to set up Jason Sanders' 50-yard game-winning field goal.
"He played well and kind of led the way in the fourth quarter," head coach Brian Flores said in the fourth quarter. "Made some plays throwing it, running it and defensively got some key stops. Jason (Sanders) made some really good kicks at the end of the half and the end of the game.”
While Tagovailoa clearly showed a lot of poise at crunch time against Arizona, Gailey praised Tagovailoa's maturity for the way he deals with teammates off the field.
Gailey also touched on the next steps for Tagovailoa in his development as an NFL quarterback.
"The next strides are he's got to see and understand defenses more and more," Gailey said. "And that just comes from doing it. We worked against the same defense all offseason. So you didn't have any preseason games to say, OK, this is what another team does. This is what another team does. He's getting that on the fly. Just understanding defenses. What they're trying to do. How they're trying to attack you. What their strengths are. Those type of things will be the strides I hope he makes here in the next few weeks."