Tua vs. the Other First-Round Picks

Alain Poupart

Before he made the switch to Tua Tagovailoa as his starting quarterback, Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said it didn't matter what fellow first-round picks Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert were doing in Cincinnati and Los Angeles, respectively.

There's little doubt that Flores will take the same approach throughout the course of the 2020 season and even beyond because, quite frankly, how Burrow and Herbert perform will have no bearing on the Dolphins' fortunes on the field — except when the Dolphins face the Bengals and Chargers, of course.

But there's also little doubt that practically everybody outside the organization will be doing a lot of comparing between what Tagovailoa is able to produce and what Burrow and Herbert already have done and will continue to do for the Bengals and Chargers.

And in those terms, Burrow and Herbert have set quite a bar for Tua.

Herbert, in particular, isn't making it easy for Tua based on what he's done as a rookie.

Thrown into the starting lineup in Week 2 because of a medical mishap involving Chargers opening-day starter Tyrod Taylor, Herbert has been nothing short of brilliant.

Herbert is seventh in the NFL in passer rating at 108.7 with 124 completions in 184 attempts (67.4) for 1,542 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Over the past three games, Herbert has 10 touchdowns and one pick. He has passed for more than 300 yards three times in five starts.

The one blemish on Herbert's resume so far is his record as a starter, which is 1-4.

Burrow also has struggled from a team standpoint, with Cincinnati at 1-5-1 following a 37-34 home loss against the Cleveland Browns last weekend.

Burrow has passed for 2,203 yards with nine touchdowns and five interceptions so far. He has reached 300 passing yards five times, with a high of 406 last Sunday.

Again, though, it's Herbert to whom Tagovailoa likely will be compared more often because the Dolphins selected Tua with the fifth overall pick right before Herbert was selected by the Chargers.

The Chargers already look like they hit a home run with Herbert.

The Dolphins certainly aren't going to be concerned with passing yardage or touchdowns nearly as much as they will with wins and losses, but fans will notice if Tua's passing numbers fail to come close to those Herbert is putting up.

Herbert does have the advantage of having great receivers with wideouts Keenan Allen and Mike Williams plus tight end Hunter Henry, though injuries have hurt the Chargers offensive line and all-purpose back Austin Ekeler also has been sidelined.

Tagovailoa won't have quite that kind of supporting cast in the passing game, though DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and Mike Gesicki make up a very representative trio.

The offensive line certainly looks right now better than the group with which Herbert has been operating and much, much better than the group in Cincinnati that has led to Burrow getting sacked 28 times in seven games.

As Tua prepares to make his NFL starting debut, it's only natural to look at the first outings for Burrow and Herbert.

Burrow was 23-for-36 for 193 yards with no touchdowns and one interceptions in a 16-13 loss against the Chargers, though it was Taylor who played for L.A. that day.

Against the Chiefs in Week 2, Herbert completed 22 of 33 passes for 311 yards with one touchdown and one pick in a 23-20 overtime loss, though his ill-advised interception was the turning point when it appeared the Chargers were on their way to an upset victory.

If the Dolphins can defeat the Rams on Sunday, Tagovailoa already will have the upper hand on Burrow and Herbert by starting 1-0 as a starter.

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