I’ve spent all training camp watching Tua Tagovailoa closely, examining every throw, scrutinizing every scramble, and dissecting every instance where he’s forced to step up or slide in the pocket.
Was there any sign of weakness? Not in the former University of Alabama standout’s understanding of his new NFL offense, or in his arm talent.
Was there any sign of weakness in his surgically repaired hip, the one that cut his final college season short and jeopardized his playing future?
Was there a tell that the right hip dislocation, which had a fracture to the posterior wall surgically repaired last November, hasn’t fully healed?
Was there a limp? An instance where the player the Dolphins selected fifth overall in the 2020 NFL draft stretched the hip just a tad too often, or favored it for a second too long?
“We’re at 10 months. It was a pretty serious injury,” coach Brian Flores said Tuesday before acknowledging that Tagovailoa, a Saint Louis alum, “looks good.”
“He’s healthy,” Flores stressed as if he were surprised.
Let’s be honest. We all are.
I’ve looked for anything to prove that the Dolphins would be putting Tagovailoa in harm’s way by lining him up behind center in an actual game this season, but couldn’t find anything.
Tua Tagovailoa appears healthy enough to play in 2020, so he should be veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick’s backup when the season starts on Sept. 13 against the New England Patriots.
I initially thought that there wasn’t a circumstance where Miami should put Tagovailoa in a game before November 19, giving the quarterback a full year for his surgically repaired hip to heal.
After all a handful of teams reportedly took Tagovailoa off their draft boards because of concerns about his durability, and the possibility of his hip issue shortening his NFL career.
The worst-case scenario is that the hip gets re-injured and it creates a blood-flow issue, which would likely end his football career.
Many NFL players stretch the truth about their injuries, rehab and recovery. Albert Wilson consistently said he was 100% last year, but ran at half speed all season before eventually acknowledging he hadn’t given his hip injury enough time to heal.
Professional athletes typically rush themselves back onto the field, or the court, because playing through pain is what’s often required of them. Or they fear missing out on opportunity, and letting someone else take their place.
I didn’t want the Dolphins to press their luck with Tagovailoa. South Florida fans need Tagovailoa to stay healthy and spend the next decade leading this franchise to prominence after years of mediocrity. What’s the harm in waiting on him for one season, allowing the 22-year-old rookie to be slow cooked while the hip fully heals?
I wanted the Dolphins to do everything in their power to ensure he was healthy before putting him in position to be pancaked by a 300-pound defensive lineman, or a blitzing linebacker.
But there’s no reason to conclude he’s not there now after watching him repeatedly out-sprint linebackers on a scramble to the sideline.
Tagovailoa might not know the Dolphins’ playbook well enough at this point, but he has the speed and elusiveness of a tailback, and a pocket presence that seemly exceeds anything we’ve seen in South Florida since Dan Marino.
If he’s going to get hurt it’s not because the hip hasn’t healed properly. It’ll be because it just wasn’t meant to be.
That’s why Tagovailoa, and not Josh Rosen, should be Fitzpatrick’s backup now. He’ll likely start several games this season, and Miami needs to put its focus towards getting him ready for his time.
Miami must do what’s necessary to accelerate his growth, and that means Tagovailoa needs to be the team’s No. 2 quarterback instead of leading the scout team offense as the third-team quarterback.
“You want him to be mentally ready. It’s really the same thing you’re looking for in the starter,” quarterback coach Robby Brown said Wednesday when asked about the decision he has to make between Tagovailoa and Rosen. “You’re looking for a guy that wants to come in and compete, knows what to do, when to do it, knows how to lead.”
That description has Tagovailoa written all over it.
At some point this season, or maybe next year if Fitzpatrick makes Miami a playoff contender, Tagovailoa will be handed the keys to this franchise, so its time we stop worrying about his hip, and get it and him prepared to carry the load.