When the Miami Dolphins selected Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle with the sixth pick in the 2021 draft, and then traded a huge amount of draft capital for ex-Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill in the 2022 offseason, the idea was clear. Miami, and head coach Mike McDaniel, wanted to present impossible math problems for enemy defenses with the combined speed of Waddle and Hill. Factor in that both speed receivers are not one-trick show ponies, and if this all worked out, it would benefit third-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa more than anybody, in a season where Tagovailoa has as much of a prove-it season as any player in the NFL.
Safe to say, after what happened in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, it was all worth it. The Dolphins started off slow on offense, and were unable to do anything with Lamar Jackson on defense, but just when things looked hopeless at halftime, with a 28-7 Ravens lead, things started to turn quite decisively in the second half. The two teams traded one touchdown each in the third quarter, and then, when the fourth quarter began, all hell broke loose for the Dolphins’ offense — and the Ravens’ defense.
The Dolphins began that fourth quarter with a 35-14 deficit, and somehow won the game, 42-38, scoring four touchdowns through the air in the fourth quarter. All Baltimore could respond with was one Justin Tucker field goal.
The play that best typified the challenge for defenses playing the Dolphins this season was probably Tagovailoa’s 60-yard touchdown to Hill with 5:19 left in the game.
Obviously a coverage bust, but the problem with single-high against the Dolphins this season is that you have Hill to one side, and Waddle to the other, and either way, you guess wrong. pic.twitter.com/bvoHliHtbF
— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) September 18, 2022
It didn’t help that the Ravens had fourth-round rookie cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis on Hill up top with no help, but the real problem for the Ravens’ defense — or any other defense — is Hill running the vertical route up top, and Waddle running a quick in from the outside of Miami’s bunch right formation. If Hill and Waddle line up on the same side of the formation, you have to break all your coverage rules to deal with them both. If they’re bookends? Welcome to having to bracket two guys if it’s all vertical.
The Dolphins bet on the idea that speed would make Tagovailoa the best possible version of the timing and rhythm quarterback he is, and that certainly happened in this game. Both Hill and Waddle gained over 100 receiving yards, and when it came to deep stuff, the difference made all the difference.
Tua Tagovailoa targeting GO routes today:
🔹 4/4, 181 yards, 2 TD (+44.6% CPOE)
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 18, 2022
Tagovailoa finished the game with 36 completions in 50 attempts for 469 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions. And the same quarterback who completed just 14 of 29 passes of 20 or more air yards last season was absolutely unstoppable when throwing deep in this game.
Sometimes, speed is all you need.