Is Tua a Franchise QB?
Miami Dolphins QB, Tua Tagovailoa, is an NFL Rorschach test. His ardent supporters vehemently maintain that he can be an elite QB and has just been held back by being on a bad team. Back in 2019, the "Tank for Tua" campaign was built on the idea that Tua was going to be a special player in the NFL. Despite getting injured, Tua was still a top 5 pick in the 2020 draft. Yet, even before he was selected, Tua had many critics who predicted that he was going to be a big draft bust.
Over the first 2 years of Tua's pro career, the Tua skeptics seemed to have the better side of the argument. Entering this season, four different major NFL media outlets (NFL.com, B/R, Sports Illustrated, SBN) all ranked Tua as a below average QB. If we made a composite of those rankings, Tua would be approximately the 19th best NFL starting QB. To put that in perspective, Jared Goff entering the 2020 season was slightly better regarded by the media experts that Tua was entering 2022. Critics continued to dangle the bust label around Tua and suggested that Miami would move on from him after the end of the year.
Miami was one of the teams rumored to be very interested in Deshaun Watson and they also contacted Tom Brady, leading to tampering penalties, including the loss of a 2023 first round draft pick. The loss of that pick likely increased the odds that they would stick with Tua, but the episode also raised questions about whether the franchise was fully behind him as the long term QB.
Per advanced metrics, Tua was the very worst QB in the NFL when pressured by a pass rush in 2021. Last season he played in an RPO based offense that resulted in him throwing a ton of short and quick passes. In terms in intended air yards per attempt, Tua ranked 29th out of 31 QBs, ahead of only Big Ben and Jared Goff.
Miami had a terrible OL in 2021. They ranked 32nd, dead last in the NFL per PFF. They had the worst pass block efficiency score, despite all those RPO plays and they also were dead last in pass block win rate. The Fins won 8 of their last 9 games in 2021 and rookie WR Jaylen Waddle had a big season, giving them some momentum to end the year, but their offense only ranked 25th in total yardage in the NFL.
For 2022, Miami pushed all their chips into the middle of the table. They pulled off a big trade to acquire Tyreek Hill, giving up a first and second round pick, plus three day 3 picks, then signed Hill to a lucrative contract. They signed FA left tackle Terron Armstead to a 5 year $75 million contract and also landed center/guard Connor Williams from Dallas on a 2 year deal. They hired Yale grad and offensive guru, Mike McDaniel, to be their new HC.
The early results have generally been promising. Hill and Waddle have been one of the best WR duos in the league. The Fins are 3-0 and their next 9 games on paper are all winnable. If the Fins are for real, they have a chance to contend in the AFC East, even against the powerful Bills, who they just knocked off.
On the other hand, maybe the Dolphins as a team and Tua as a QB aren't really as strong as they might appear. Their top 2 RBs are only averaging 3.34 yards per carry and the team's run block win rate has gone down to 19th place after they finished in 9th place in 2021. Their pass block win rate has slightly improved, but still is only 24th best in the league. Armstead is graded as a top 10 tackle and Robert Hunt ranks as the 2nd best guard in the NFL, but both Liam Eichenberg (2nd round pick 2021, left guard) and Greg Little (2nd round 2019 Panthers, right tackle) grade among the very worst players at their respective positions (32.3 and 38.0 PFF, respectively.) Connor Williams is graded as a middle of the pack center. Little has been a draft bust so far in the NFL and he's replacing Austin Jackson who went on IR (1st round 2020) who himself appears to be on the way to being a draft bust. The Fins waived Solomon Kindley, who was a 4th round pick in 2020 (he's a street FA, out of the NFL), while Michael Deiter (3rd round 2019) is only a backup player for them. They also drafted another lineman in 2019 (Isaiah Prince, 6th round) but waived and lost him during his rookie season. The Fins poured a bunch of draft picks and FA spending into their OL, but have only achieved moderate success.
Do you think that Tua is a good QB? Can he sustain his early 2022 success?
Losing Trent Williams (79.5 PFF, 4th ranked OT in the NFL) is a huge blow to their OL. I don't who will replace him, because in the Broncos game they initially used Jaylon Moore (5th round, 2021 from Western Michigan), but benched him after he struggled and turned to Colton McKivitz (66.3 PFF). They also could try sliding someone like Spencer Burford out to OT and put someone else into his G spot. Dan Brunskill could return and play against the Rams. He's been out with a hamstring injury and missed each of the first 3 games.
Aaron Banks, the LG, is one of the top graded guards in the NFL (77 PFF, 6th best G, 2021 second round pick out of Notre Dame) and Mike McGlinchey (70.2 PFF) also grades out well at RT.
Burford is a 4th round rookie and has a 59.3 PFF grade at RG, middle of the pack in the NFL.
PFF and ESPN don't agree about center Jake Brendel. PFF grades him as the 31st best center out of 35 players at 50.7, but he's a top 10 center in both pass block win rate and run block win rate per ESPN.
Jason Poe is on the Niners PS. He was beaten out for a roster spot by Nick Zakelj, a 6th round pick from Fordham. Also on their PS is Keith Ismael, a former 5th round pick in 2020 by Washington, who was waived earlier this year after he reportedly had a concussion.
These are the current PFF season grades for the Rams:
Noteboom 68.7 (28th OT)
Edwards 57.9 (37th G)
Shelton 52.1 (54th G)
A. Jackson 71.3 (17th G)
Havenstein 68.7 (28th OT)
Injured Brian Allen 67.6 (8th C)
Edwards had a rough first game of the season, but since that point he's come on strong. Edwards currently has a better PFF grade than Landon Dickerson of the Eagles (2nd round 2021), Trey Smith of the Chiefs (who was a rookie sensation last season), and Cesar Ruiz of the Saints (1st round 2020). If Edwards continues to stack good games, his overall grade will look healthy by the middle of the season. Landon Dickerson has a low PFF grade even though he has the best PBWR among guards and the 3rd best RBWR among guards, per ESPN's metrics. Another example of a player who looks elite per ESPN, but isn't very good per PFF.
Most Rams fans seem to like Alaric Jackson, but I'm not sold that he's actually a good player. Jackson isn't very athletic or technical. PFF has him graded well, but I think he's overrated. PFF has nearly identical grades for Jackson and Zack Martin (71.4) of the Dallas Cowboys. Are we supposed to take that literally and believe that Alaric Jackson and Martin are identical performers? I find that premise difficult to accept.
Samson Ebukam (74.3 PFF, 30th best edge defender) has the 5th best run stop win rate among edge defenders in the NFL.
Javon Kinlaw (46.7 PFF) is one of the lowest graded DL in the league. He was the 14th overall pick in the first round in 2020. Many people thought he'd break out this season. Kinlaw grades out okay as a pass rusher, but he only had a 37.4 grade against the Broncos. Arik Armstead (1st round 2015) also had a poor PFF grade. Armstead has been dealing with a foot injury.
The return of George Kittle from a groin injury is vital at a time when the Niners have suffered other key injuries on offense.
Kyle Juszczyk at FB has had about 300 receiving yards per season like clockwork, but this year he only has 1 catch and only 4 targets. He's one of the lowest graded FBs in the league per PFF.
The defense for the Niners is formidable at all 3 levels. Talanoa Hufanga (5th round 2021) might be the biggest surprise at 80.9, the 6th best safety in the league. Even some of their reserves are pretty good. Hassan Ridgeway, who is a rotational backup DT, has a respectable 73.9 PFF grade. So, even though perhaps the Niners aren't as scary up front as they were before, they still are pretty solid and could challenge the Rams' OL.
The Rams play the Niners twice in the next 4 games. The second game comes after the bye week for the Rams.
Around the NFL
Von Miller has the best PRWR among edge defenders in the NFL. A'Shawn Robinson for the Rams has the best RSWR among DTs.
I thought that Ben Bredeson (NYG) was a good draft prospect. He's essentially a backup pressed into action due to injury and he's looked horrible (45.5 PFF), beaten badly in pass pro, lacking play strength.
One reason the Eagles have had such a strong start this year is they have one of the best OLs in the NFL. They are top 10 in PBWR and top 5 in RBWR. PFF ranked them as the best OL in the NFL after week 2. This is despite Jason Peters no longer being on the team and Andrew Dillard being on IR. Jason Kelce turns 35 this season and I'm somewhat surprised that he even returned to play this year, but he still grades out as one of the best centers (2nd place at the moment) in the NFL. Lane Johnson was plagued by injury in recent years, but he seems to have returned to form. AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert are a powerful 3 headed monster and Miles Sanders has a 4.9 yard rush average. With dual threat Hurts at QB, they have 5 quality offensive options. The Eagles also have some depth at OL, because 2nd round pick Cam Jurgens is an interior backup and former 4th rounder Jack Driscoll is also available.
I had all but given up any hope that Garrett Bradbury of the Vikings (1st round 2019) would salvage his career and avoid being a draft bust, but suddenly there is a glimmer of hope for him in year 4 in the NFL. He has a 69.8 PFF grade, the 6th best center in the league. Entering this season it was all but a given that he was on his way out the door, but if he continues to play well, maybe he can land that 2nd contract.
Poor Austin Blythe has a 39.6 PFF grade, the worst qualifying center in the NFL.
Former Ram, Austin Corbett, has a 74.0 PFF grade, ranking as the 11th best guard in the league. We'll see him when the Rams play the Panthers in the middle of October.
Dylan Parham for the Raiders (3rd round rookie) played about half of their first game at guard and had a great PFF grade, but since that point his grade has dipped more than 20 points. The starting center for the Raiders had a concussion, so they slid Parham over to play center. He looks a bit small and underpowered to me. Decent in pass pro, but lacks aggression, slow on screens, limited quickness and athleticism, susceptible to being pushed backwards towards the QB. Overall, he's still an okay player, but there is also plenty room for growth and improvement.
The Jets signed Laken Tomlinson to a 3 year contract (the way it is structured, it is more like a 1 year deal) but he's been a huge disappointment so far, with only a 42.3 PFF grade, one of the worst guards in the NFL. George Fant for the Jets is in a contract year and wanted more money, but he's graded as one of the worst tackles in the league. With Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton both on IR, the Jets have yet to improve their OL, despite sinking plenty of high draft picks and FA spending towards the cause.