Miami Dolphins defense and rookie quarterback Tagovailoa have the team at 6-3 and in playoff contention

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Rookie Tua Tagovailoa has led the Miami Dolphins to three straight wins since being inserted as the starting quarterback.

Halfway through a wild season of the NFL that was doubtful to even happen, with cancelled games, big trades, the Jets losing (again), and massive upsets, there is one outlier that has caught the attention of every football fan. The Miami Dolphins.

The Miami Dolphins, a team nobody thought would make the playoffs after going 5-11 last season, are on a five-game winning streak led first by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the name every Dolphins fan knows, Tua Tagovailoa, Fitzpatrick’s replacement. As of now, the Dolphins hold the sixth seed in the AFC and second seed in the AFC East with a record of 6-3, and are in playoff contention. 

Last year, the motto of the Dolphins fans was “Tank for Tua,” meaning the team should lose games to get a higher pick in the NFL draft in order to draft Tagovailoa, the much heralded, Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback out of Alabama. After Tagovailoa suffered a season-ending hip injury in mid-November of last year, his draft stock dropped a bit. It all proved serendipitous for the Dolphins as they held the fifth pick in the 2020 draft after winning more games than most had projected. When the fifth pick of the 2020 draft came up, Tagovailoa was still on the board, and the Dolphins made him their franchise quarterback of the future.

Being patient with Tagovailoa coming off his hip injury, the Dolphins started veteran journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback through the first six games of the season in which the Miami went 3-3. In the final moments of the sixth game in a blowout win over the New York Jets, Miami head coach Brian Flores, put Tagovailoa in to give him some real game-time experience. He’s been the Dolphins starting quarterback since then as Miami decided to take advantage of the bye week following the Jets game to give Tagovailoa the reps he needed in practice to take over the leading role.

In his three games as the starting quarterback, Tagovailoa has guided the Dolphins to impressive wins over Los Angeles Rams, the Arizona Cardinals, and the Los Angeles Chargers, running the Dolphins current record to 6-3, one game behind the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills. 

Although no one is going to mistake Tagovailoa for Russel Wilson or Aaron Rodgers right now, his play has been impressive for a rookie quarterback. So far this season, he has thrown for a total of 519 yards, with five touchdowns and no interceptions.

However, the real star of the Dolphins resurgence has the defense. Against the high-powered offense of the Rams, the Dolphins defense gave up only 17 points, adding four turnovers and two defensive touchdowns. Against the Kyler Murray-led Cardinals, the defense gave up 31 points, but made a crucial 4th & 1 stop to ice the game and scored another touchdown to get a victory. Against the Chargers, the defense only gave up 21 points and 273 total yards with cornerback Xavien Howard getting his fifth interception of the season, putting him only one interception behind league leader J.C. Jackson of the New England Patriots. 

As for the rest of the season, the Dolphins next three games (Denver Broncos, Jets, Cincinnati Bengals) all look very winnable. The final four games of the season will be tougher and will determine if Miami is really a playoff contender as they will face the Kansas City Chiefs, the Patriots, the Las Vegas Raiders, and the Bills. That final game of the season in Buffalo could very well determine the division winner of the AFC East.

One thing is for certain, if the Dolphins do make the playoffs, it will most likely be the result of the continued strong play of the defense and the steady leadership and lethal passing accuracy of rookie quarterback Tagovailoa.

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