When the Miami Dolphins acquired Tyreek Hill, one of the league’s best wide receivers, from the Kansas City Chiefs, the fortunes of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa appeared to improve considerably.
But, one former Dolphins executive said, the Tagovailoa-to-Hill combination doesn’t mean Miami will be overtaking their AFC East rivals the New England Patriots in 2022.
“I’ve never been in on Tua. And that’s why I think the Patriots are better than the Dolphins,” former Dolphins Vice President Mike Tannenbaum said on the March 30 episode of ESPN’s “Get Up,” according to a tweet by Palm Beach Post reporter Joe Schad. “They have the best Alabama QB in the division.”
Mac Jones, the Patriots’ second-year quarterback, was Tagovailoa’s teammate at Alabama in 2018 and 2019.
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Jones Is Missing a No. 1 Receiver
While Tagovailoa, who is entering his third season, will get the opportunity to make plays with two of the NFL’s top receivers in Hill and Jaylen Waddle, Jones and the Patriots do not have an elite receiver. Heading into the 2022 season, Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor are first and second on the Patriots’ depth chart, but neither has had a 1,000-yard season in his career. Meyers caught two touchdowns last year and Agholor caught three.
And because the Patriots have been relatively inactive in terms of signing free agents, they might look to the April 28 NFL draft for help at receiver. Tannenbaum, the former Dolphins executive, suggested in a March 25 interview with Heavy that New England can worry about signing a veteran receive after the draft, where they’ll have the 21st pick of the first round.
“If I was them, those are post-draft conversations,” Tannenbaum said. “There are some dynamic players — Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams when healthy, Treylon Burks — there’s a lot of great receivers.
“So if I’m New England, I’m in a little bit of a different situation than Kansas City. So I’m probably going to be a little more patient and get through the draft.”
Alabama’s Williams, whom Pro Football Focus ranked third among wide receiver prospects in the draft, seemed to particularly impress Tannenbaum.
“It’s really rare to see players at that level outrun players that have angles on them because they’re being chased by future NFL players, five-star players,” he said. “Jameson Williams’ play speed actually reminds me of Tyreek Hill.”
Among the receivers Tannenbaum mentioned, Ohio State’s Wilson and Arkansas’ Burks were ranked second and fifth, respectively, by PFF.
Teammates Turned Rivals
Because they were teammates at Alabama and Jones succeeded Tagovailoa, the two likely will be inextricably linked throughout their NFL careers.
Jones’ exceptional rookie season (10-7 record, 3,801 yards passing, 22 TDs to 13 interceptions) has put his ceiling higher than Tagovailoa’s. But their style of play makes a comparison difficult. Jones has shown that escaping from the pocket is not his strong suit. Meanwhile, Tagovailoa is a dual threat but is not as accurate as Jones and has been known to be more careless with the ball.
Where Tagovailoa has an early edge on Jones is in their head-to-head meetings, in the Dolphins’ 17-16 and 33-24 wins over the Patriots in first and last games of the 2021 regular season, respectively.
In the first game, Tagovailoa completed 16 of his 27 passes, threw for 202 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and he rushed for a touchdown. Jones was 29-for-39 with 281 passings and a touchdown.
In the rematch, Tagovailoa’s 109 passing yards and a touchdown was overshadowed by Jones’ 261 yards and a touchdown, but Jones threw a costly interception that was returned for a first-quarter touchdown.
Tagovailoa was picked fifth overall in the 2020 draft, and Jones was selected 15th overall in the 2021 draft.