The Miami Dolphins sit at 3-3, winning three of their last four games, but made the interesting decision to replace starter Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback in favor of rookie Tua Tagovailoa.
To get a better feel for why they made that decision and other things relating to the Dolphins, we checked in with All Dolphins publisher Alain Poupart for his answers on these five key questions:
1. What went into the decision for Miami to make that switch at quarterback from Fitzpatrick to Tagovailoa at this point of the season?
Poupart: That’s a great question that’s never gotten a full answer from the organization beyond saying it was the best move for the team right now. From my vantage point, this move was made with a long-term scope because Tagovailoa clearly represents the future of the franchise and the Dolphins want to get him in the lineup sooner rather than later. One reason for that beyond starting the future now with Tua at quarterback is also making sure he’s the right guy. It’s looking like the Dolphins will have a very high first-round pick in 2021 thanks to the Houston Texans and they need to know whether they have to address the quarterback position again. It also could be that the Dolphins legitimately feel that Tua gives them the best chance to win right now, though based on the way Ryan Fitzpatrick was playing and Brian Flores making it a point to say practices are different than games, there’s reason to question that.
2. How different will Miami’s offense be with Tagovailoa at the controls?
Poupart: I wouldn’t expect wholesale changes on offense, though the first pass of Tua’s NFL career, where he rolled out on a naked bootleg before throwing to the flat to running back Patrick Laird, might have served as a preview. I would expect a lot of those types of passes, along with a lot of shotgun formations and a lot of quick throws. One pass that became a Tua calling card at Alabama was the quick slant and I would expect to see a lot of those as well. Bottom line is I would expect quicker passing and shorter throws in general than what the Dolphins did with Fitzpatrick at quarterback.
3. What’s your evaluation of Brian Flores’ tenure as head coach of the Dolphins?
Poupart: So far so good. What he did last year in helping the Dolphins squeezing five wins in a rebuilding year out of a roster that could only be described as sub-par (and that’s being very kind) was nothing short of remarkable. He’s now got the Dolphins in position to make a run at the playoffs this season and has the opportunity to show he can get his team to the next level. His game-day coaching, in terms of strategy, has been very solid overall (you could nitpick at certain decisions, like kicking a field goal in the fourth quarter of the Seattle game but you can do that with every coach.) The only negative mark to me has been the ability to resolve issues with players, such as what happened with Minkah Fitzpatrick and led to his trade to Pittsburgh and with Kenny Stills and led to Stills being included in the Laremy Tunsil trade with Houston. But overall it does look like the Dolphins have a keeper.
4. Xavien Howard is tied for lead in the NFL with four interceptions. What makes him special as a player?
Poupart: He’s just a really, really good athlete with all the prototypical physical attributes — size, strength, speed. What makes him stand out, though, is the ball skills. When this guy gets a chance at a pick, he just doesn’t miss. That’s why he leads the NFL in picks since the latter stages of the 2017 season when he really blossomed into an elite cornerback. He took a step back last year when his season ended on IR because of knee problems and it took him maybe a couple of weeks this year to get going, but right now he’s back to his 2018 Pro Bowl form and looking as good as any cornerback in the NFL — with the stats to prove it.
5. What Miami playmaker should L.A. be concerned about on offense?
Poupart: The closest thing the Dolphins have to a bona fide star on offense has to be wide receiver DeVante Parker, who had a breakout season in 2019 when he led all AFC wide receivers in yards (1,202) and touchdowns (9). Parker isn’t quite at that pace this year, but he’s got the ability to put up big numbers thanks to his combination of speed, body control and high-pointing ability. Of course, we’ll have to see what kind of rapport he can establish with Tagovailoa now that the Dolphins have made the switch at quarterback.