'A great kid,' funny and dangerous: Dolphins ready to get rolling with Tua Tagovailoa as starting QB

Safid Deen, Sun Sentinel
·4 min read

The Tua Tagovailoa era will officially begin for the Miami Dolphins this week.

Tagovailoa, Miami’s top pick with the fifth selection in the draft in April, will get his first NFL start when the Dolphins (3-3) host the Los Angeles Rams (4-2) on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium.

And a few of Tagovailoa’s teammates are excited to see how he performs in his first game as the Dolphins’ new starting quarterback.

“I’m really excited for this next chapter with Tua,” tight end Mike Gesicki said Monday as the Dolphins begin their preparations for their Week 8 matchup.

“I know everybody is excited — both in this locker room and outside this locker room, our fans, everybody. So it’s a new week … and we’re ready to get rolling.”

Added receiver Preston Williams: “(He’s) everything you want in a quarterback. Y’all seen his tape, that speaks for itself. We’re excited that Tua is getting a start just like everybody else; I’m excited to see him in his first game action versus the Rams.”

The Dolphins named Tagovailoa as their new starter during their bye last week, signaling a new age for the franchise.

Tagovailoa is replacing 16-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had an 8-11 record as the Dolphins’ bridge quarterback since coach Brian Flores and general manager Chris Grier began their rebuilding effort in 2019.

The odd part in the transition, though, has been the timing.

The Dolphins are second in the AFC East behind the Buffalo Bills (5-2) and ahead of the New England Patriots (2-4) and New York Jets (0-7).

They sit eighth in the AFC standings after their bye. And they’ll face a 10-game stretch to end the regular season, one that could possibly see them contend for a playoff spot.

“Everybody knew coming in, this division’s up for grabs. It’s open to anybody,” Dolphins defensive end Shaq Lawson said of Miami’s outlook in the division.

Conventional football wisdom says it’s not an ideal time for the Dolphins to make a switch at quarterback.

But the Dolphins, who have made the playoffs only twice since 2002, are seeking long-term success with Tagovailoa as their franchise quarterback.

Seeing Tagovailoa perform and improve is a crucial step in the Dolphins’ rebuild.

“They don’t draft a quarterback in the first round for no reason. The guy is the future of the program,” Lawson said.

“Tua, as advice being in the league, I’m just telling him to continue to work hard and get better. We’re going to follow your lead, man. Embrace every moment of it. As a guy that’s been seeing him, he’s been doing it every day. He’s a guy that always has a smile on his face. A great kid. And he always wants to talk to vets and learn new things. He learns a lot and likes to learn to.”

Tagovailoa’s teammates have been impressed with his work ethic, improvements in practice and how he has worked to include himself within the locker room.

Lawson, who sometimes lined up against Tagovailoa in practice during the first six weeks of the season, says the lefty quarterback has the potential to be dangerous.

Yeah, dangerous.

“Normally, I’m in the backside, behind the quarterback, the right side. But he’s a left-handed quarterback. You don’t get that a lot in the league. That’s why I think he’s so dangerous,” Lawson said of Tagovailoa, who will be the first left-handed quarterback to start in an NFL game since 2015.

“He’s athletic. You wouldn’t think he’s a rookie if you watch him in practice. He looks like he’s been around a long time.”

Gesicki credits Tagovailoa’s work to get healthy again after the former Alabama standout suffered his gruesome hip dislocation and posterior wall fracture in November 2019.

Gesicki has also continued to play some snaps on the Dolphins scout team to get more repetitions in practice, which have allowed for him to get some chemistry with Tagovailoa as his quarterback.

“Tua has done a phenomenal job with just being a guy in the locker room. Everybody has fun when they’re around him,” Gesicki said. “He’s a funny guy. He’s fun to be around. And when he’s on the field, he has that where he can flip the switch and make it serious but also still have fun with it.”

“I look forward getting on the field with him, and seeing him in the huddle, and making a big play because you know it’s eventually coming, and how he reacts to that,” Gesicki added.

“I think it’s exciting to be part of that next chapter, that next phase. He’s done a phenomenal job earning everybody’s respect in the locker room and then obviously everybody’s respect outside of the locker room upstairs, giving him this opportunity. He’s earned it and I’m excited for him.”

Added Lawson: “He’s going to lead this team in the right way.”

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