Speed is the key component of the 2022 Miami Dolphins offense. Typically that’s in reference to the wide receivers, specifically the duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The speed of the quarterback has also been a key to making this offense one of the best in the league when Tua Tagovailoa has been on the field. We’re not talking about “speed” for a quarterback like Justin Fields or Lamar Jackson but the speed with which Tagovailoa can process and get the ball out accurately. 

For as much of a mess as the 2021 Miami offense was, the general idea was to use Tagovailoa’s processing speed to make up for a bad offensive line by spamming the RPO game with quick passes. That generally limited the ceiling of the offense but with a different quarterback, that could have been one of the least efficient passing offenses in the league. While it might have been the least aesthetically pleasing, there was enough success for that offense to be passable.

$20 Off Super Bowl Package
NFL Picks + Props + 25 page report

Some of the thinking for that short RPO-level offense was using the quarterback’s strengths to make up for an offensive line that was one of the worst in the league. That line ranked 32nd in ESPN’s pass block win rate with the fourth-highest blown block rate, per Sports Info Solutions. Even with some new pieces, the line has still struggled. The line ranks 24th in pass block win rate so far this season and still the fourth-highest blown block rate. The bigger improvement has come in pressure rate, where Tagovailoa has the second-lowest pressure rate behind only Tom Brady, according to TruMedia. That’s a quarterback-controlled change.

This year under Mike McDaniel, Tagovailoa’s ability to get the ball out quickly has been combined with the wide receiver speed to push the ball down the field more often instead of playing the horizontal game. 

Tagovailoa currently has the highest aDOT in the league among quarterbacks on throws within 2.5 seconds of the snap.

Last season, 71.6% of Tagovailoa’s pass attempts traveled within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, which was the 14th-highest rate in the league. This year, that rate is 61.3%, which ranks 32nd.

On throws of 11 or more yards down the field, Tagovailoa ranks first in EPA per dropback (1.00) and completion percentage (65.3%). The scheme and receivers can create some of those openings for Tagovailoa but this is part of where his quick release also helps. Tagovailoa has the lowest average time to throw on these pass attempts at 2.63, according to TruMedia. The league average for throws of 11 or more air yards is 3.02 seconds.

Even within the group of quarterbacks getting the ball out quickly, Tagovailoa is a bit of an outlier. Let’s take a look at the five quarterbacks getting the ball out within 2.75 seconds on throws of 11 or more air yards.

Quarterbacks Averaging Under 2.75 Seconds To Throw On Attempts 11+ Air Yards
data per TruMedia

PlayerEPA/DBTime To ThrowWithin 2.5 sec2.5-4 sec4+ sec
Tua Tagovailoa1.002.6351.4%41.7%6.9%
Baker Mayfield0.132.6434.8%63.0%2.2%
Joe Burrow0.442.6650.0%40.2%9.8%
Kenny Pickett-0.392.7233.3%61.9%4.8%
Tom Brady0.322.7434.0%63.8%2.1%

Joe Burrow is the only other quarterback to get over half of those passes off in at least 2.5 seconds. Not only is Tagovailoa doing that at the highest rate, he’s also the best at doing it. On throws of 11 or more air yards released under 2.5 seconds, Tagovailoa again leads the league in EPA per dropback at 1.17. Only Burrow (41 attempts, 0.43 EPA per dropback) has more such attempts than Tagovailoa’s 37.

This is part of the key to opening those windows and getting the most out of them, especially to the intermediate level of the field, where Tagovailoa is throwing passes at a higher rate (26.9%) than any other quarterback in the league. With Hill and Waddle, one could try to make the argument that the receivers are doing the heavy lifting, but we’ve seen what happens when other quarterbacks take just slightly longer to get the ball out on those throws. For that, we’ll re-run this table that was in 1st & 10 this week:

Miami Quarterbacks On Intermediate Throws, 2022
data per TruMedia

PlayerEPA/DBIntermediate %Time to ThrowTD/INT
Tua Tagovailoa0.9026.9%2.424/0
Teddy Bridgewater-0.1230%2.850/3
Skylar Thompson-0.188.7%2.380/1

We can go back to what might be the first big memorable play of the Dolphins’ season, Waddle’s 49-yard touchdown in Week 1 against the New England Patriots. Miami decided to go for it on a fourth-and-7 with 24 seconds remaining in the first half. Tagovailoa released the ball in 1.6 seconds to hit Waddle 12 yards down the field between three Patriots defenders. If the pass is out a little later, Waddle is potentially caught by one of them. Instead, he took it the rest of the way to the end zone.

 

 

There can be a perception that the receivers are doing most of the work, creating huge throwing lanes and running after the catch. While some of the highlight plays have been that, this isn’t a Jimmy Garoppolo type of offense. Garoppolo currently leads the league with 59.8% of his passing yards coming after the catch, Tagovailoa is 33rd at 34.9%.

Having the league’s fastest duo at wide receivers has opened up how the Dolphins can attack opposing defenses and Tagovailoa’s work in the pocket has allowed Miami to make the most of it. This has only continued to click throughout the season.

On Miami’s opening drive against the Lions, the Dolphins had a second-and-8 from the Detroit 21-yard line. Miami ran an RPO that sent Waddle down the field, just inside the numbers. As soon as Tagovailoa got the read to throw, the ball was out in 1.3 seconds to just clear a window that was about to be closed by linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez (44) for a 12-yard gain.

 

 

Of course, this pass came just a few plays after the highlight 36-yard gain to Hill on a third-and-13. That pass came from empty against a Detroit blitz. With a free defender coming toward him, Tagovailoa threw the ball up — in 1.6 seconds — to open space that he knew Hill would eventually occupy. 

 

 

Hill having to slow down to catch the ball is an image some will get hung up on but we can provide some more context on the throw. The anecdotal context is that Tagovailoa finishes the throw fading away from the free defender. You can take or leave that, if you want. The other context is that this is the second-longest completed pass by air yards released under two seconds since Tagovailoa came into the league. The only longer completion came from Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins on a 34-yard touchdown from a clean pocket in a Week 7 game against the Seattle Seahawks in 2020.

Tagovailoa is currently tied for the league lead in completions of 20 or more air yards released in under 2.5 seconds at five. The other two quarterbacks, Burrow and Aaron Rodgers, have at least double the attempts (13 for Burrow, 12 for Rodgers), as Tagovailoa (six).

Waddle’s 29-yard touchdown against the Lions was one of these completions. Before the snap, the Dolphins motioned Hill over to be the No. 2 in a trips set to the left against man coverage. Waddle ran a slot wheel from the inside and blew past the corner. Tagovailoa had the ball out in 2.1 seconds against a blitz for the touchdown.

 

That’s just a play of everything working together and that’s where the Dolphins are at right now. This is the perfect way to mesh all of the talents of the current skill group. Miami might not look like a high-powered Chiefs or Bills offense with 50-yard bombs but they don’t have to be in order to be successful. That also should never have been the expectation coming in

Tagovailoa doesn’t have that arm but that hasn’t held back the effectiveness of the offense. The Dolphins are using the speed of the wide receivers to create openings and the speed of the quarterback’s release to get that ball out. With that combination, the Dolphins are able to stretch the field vertically at a pace we’ve rarely seen. Everyone plays a part and it’s led to one of the most fun offenses in the league this season.

Get a $1,000 Risk-Free Bet
For new customers to BetMGM