The Patriots played the Dolphins Week 1, and handled them with relative ease in the season opener.
It’s now three months later, and plenty has changed between the teams for Round 2. Along with their standing in the division, and playoff hopes, the biggest change for the Dolphins comes at quarterback.
The Fins have gone from Fitzmagic to Tua Time.
Brian Flores has given the keys to the offense to rookie Tua Tagovailoa, the former Alabama star, and is relying on him instead of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
In six starts, and seven games overall, Tagovailoa has thrown nine touchdown passes — four more than Cam Newton — with just one interception.
He also has a 62 percent completion percentage.
The Patriots had scouted Tagovailoa prior to the 2020 NFL draft, so they’re familiar with the Heisman Trophy winner and Nick Saban disciple.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick lauded Tua during his video conference with reporters Tuesday.
“He’s a pretty experienced quarterback in terms of the passing game, and what they did at Alabama. He gets rid of the ball very quickly, doesn’t hold it much. He sees coverages well, takes good care of the ball, hasn’t thrown the ball to the defense.
“He sees what he’s got, understands the pressure, understands the timing of the routes, and gets the ball out quickly. He has enough quickness in the pocket to make it difficult for the pass rush to get to him. He can run a little bit, but he’s more of a quicker guy in the pocket that’s elusive and really wants to throw more than he wants to run. He can run, but he’s a good passer, and wants to get the ball out quickly.”
Before the draft, there was concern over the major hip injury Tua suffered and how he would heal from that. It was anyone’s guess how far Tagovailoa might fall down the board, given those concerns.
He didn’t fall far. The Dolphins selected him with the fifth overall pick. If the Patriots had any interest, or hopes of him dropping to where they stood, at No. 23, they dissolved quickly. The Patriots ultimately traded out of the first round.
Belichick talked about the hesitation regarding Tagovailoa during the draft process.
“He was either going to be fine, and be good, or this could really be a serious injury, and just had to wait to see how the healing process went,” he said. “And obviously, it’s gone well. He looks good.”
In a losing effort against the Chiefs Sunday, Tagovailoa completed 28 of 48 passes for 316 yards, with two touchdowns and a pick.
Tagovailoa throws from the left side, so he’ll present a unique challenge in that regard.
It’s hard to dial up a left-handed quarterback for the scout team. Belichick didn’t seem too concerned with that dynamic.
“It’s certainly something to talk about, and be aware of,” said Belichick. “I think it shows up in some of the play calling, and the extended plays that occur . . . sometimes it’s hard to replicate depending on who you might have to do that.”
All of the Patriots quarterbacks on the roster are right-handed. Practice squad QB Jake Dolegala is also right-handed.