Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has taken his share of lumps in three seasons in the NFL, losing time to journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick his rookie year and missing multiple games to injuries his next two seasons.
The jury is still out for some even after Tagovailoa put up 3,548 yards and 25 touchdowns in 13 contests last season. Miami wide receiver Jaylen Waddle backs him, though, and he knows exactly what makes his QB special.
"His ball placement," Waddle told KPRC 2 Sports’ Ari Alexander. "I think everybody sees it, knowing exactly where to put the ball so his receivers can not just catch it, but catch it and run with it. That's what makes Tua, Tua."
The stats support Waddle's take.
Tagovailoa led the league in 2022 in yards per attempt (8.9) and yards per completion (13.7), as well as passer rating (105.5).
Waddle was fifth among all wide receivers with 537 yards after catch (YAC), while his teammate Tyreek Hill placed just behind him in seventh with 514.
They were able to do so in part thanks to Tagovailoa's accuracy in YAC-heavy areas like the flat, as Waddle mentioned, but the third-year QB also was also among the best in the NFL at deep-ball placement, posting the highest passer rating (124.1) on throws of 20-plus yards and second-highest deep completion percentage (24.5), per PFF.
Although Waddle did not come close to his NFL rookie record of 104 receptions, he still benefitted greatly from another year of partnership with Tagovailoa. He set career highs with 1,356 receiving yards and eight scores while leading the league with 18.1 yards per catch.
"It was just a mindset," Waddle said about his jump in yards per reception from 9.8 the year prior, also crediting Hill's skills and the addition of head coach Mike McDaniel. "Mike came in and really harped on YAC. Having a guy like Cheetah, who's a YAC monster, you don't got no choice but to learn from him and soak up all that game that he's giving."
Waddle and Hill will again look to put up gaudy numbers in Year 2 as one of the NFL's best WR duos. They can likely fuel the Dolphins' fourth-ranked passing offense to even greater heights should their pinpoint-passing QB manage to play 17 games for the first time in his career.