How will Tua Tagovailoa fare in his debut? ‘I think he’ll play great,’ Gailey says

Adam H. Beasley, Barry Jackson
·5 min read

Here’s an incredible fact you might not get anywhere else:

Chan Gailey, who turns 69 in January, is in his 16th season as an NFL head coach or offensive coordinator.

He’s coached John Elway and Troy Aikman and Kordell Stewart and Jay Fiedler and dozens of other quarterbacks — including Ryan Fitzpatrick in two different cities

But Sunday will be the first time in those 16 years he’ll be coaching a rookie quarterback making his first start.

So it’ll be uncharted waters for him, too.

But he is pretty confident with how Tua Tagovailoa will perform.

“I think he’ll play great. That’s what you anticipate,” Gailey said Tuesday, five days ahead of Tagovailoa’s premiere.

Gailey added that he anticipates Tagovaioa “making good throws and good decisions in the run game and getting us to where we’re supposed to be, blocking wise. I expect him to play excellent.”

If the Dolphins are planning wholesale changes to their offense with the quarterback switch, they’re doing a good job keeping those plans quiet.

But Gailey did say there will be subtle adjustments, particularly since the Dolphins are going from a right-handed quarterback to a southpaw.

In short, the playbook will be flipped at times.

“I would think that the No. 1 thing I would think about is if somebody tries to make a right-handed quarterback scramble, you want him to scramble to the left,” Gailey said, and added the reverse is true for lefties. “We practice things both left and right. It doesn’t change a lot for us. If we’ve had a bootleg that’s been to the right for Fitz, it’s been on Tua’s wristband every week that he runs it to the left. We practiced it both ways. Nothing really changes for us.”

As for chatter that Fitzpatrick might be on the trading block — we hear that such a move it unlikely, but presumably can’t be ruled out — Gailey would not speculate.

But he was asked about his thoughts on benching Fitzpatrick; they two men are quite close.

“I’m close with Fitz, but guess what, I like Tua,” Gailey said. “I like Tua a lot. I think he’s got a great future. I’m excited for him. We do what’s best for the football team all the time. That’s what we do. That’s where we are with this thing right now.”

MORE TUA FEEDBACK

Impressive and inquisitive.

Those are the takeaways of Dolphins defensive coaches in assessing what they’ve seen from Tagovailoa as he approaches his first NFL start.

Here’s what the Dolphins’ defensive coaches said Tuesday they have observed about him:

▪ Outside linebackers coach Austin Clark: “He’s a heck of a player and I’m fired up to see him Sunday.”

▪ Linebackers coach Anthony Campanile, on what stands out about him: ““Great leadership qualities. Very good athlete, a guy that guys enjoy playing with. I’m seeing a lot of great qualities to be honest with you. He’s always a very inquisitive guy and really a great kid. He has a great way about him. I think everybody in the building feels that way.”

▪ Defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander: “There was a reason he was drafted in the first round. He has great skill. I’m looking forward to seeing what he will do for us.”

Alexander said Tagovailoa hasn’t picked his brain because “I might be low on Tua’s totem poll.”

THIS AND THAT

▪ Alexander explained one reason why the Dolphins like Bobby McCain at safety: “I think Bobby has accepted the responsibility of what we want out of the free safety position in being a primary communicator.

“What allows him to do so is his understanding of the defense and his understanding of not just his 1/11th but everybody, and getting guys where they need to be, in positions to make plays. He’s done a great job of that. Those are things that aren’t reflected on the stat sheet, but it is a very important piece for us to be able to operate defensively. That’s a huge emphasis that he takes pride in, and he does a really good job for us.”

▪ The Dolphins love what they’re getting from defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, who has five sacks.

“He really bought into the concept of setting the edge and playing the run and then getting after the passer and rushing the quarterback,” Clark said. “I think that’s the thing that’s most impressive about him and then I think he’s finally getting into a groove for himself throughout the game. The guy studies a lot of tape. He loves football and he’s done a heck of a job so far.”

How has Shaq Lawson played? “With missing the one game, I think that was tough on him,” Clark said. “I thought [against] Seattle, he really brought us some great stuff. He’s getting better each week and excited about him this week.”

▪ If the Dolphins need another defensive tackle on Sunday, Benito Jones could again get the call. The practice squad rookie logged eight defensive snaps against the Jets.

“You’ve got to like Benito,” defensive line coach Marion Hobby said. “His work habits are really good. He’s not tall – you don’t like to say ‘not very tall’ [6-1] – but he’s got good twitch, he’s got good power and he understands the position.”