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Tua Tagovailoa impresses before making a brutal decision in Week 1 NFL preseason

Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa made some strong plays in the preseason opener, but also made a bad decision in Week 1 of the NFL preseason. We recap his performance.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) looks to pass during their game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Eileen T. Meslar-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins opened their 2021 preseason with quite a few starters sitting out the game against the Chicago Bears, including notable receivers DeVante Parker and Will Fuller. Regardless of that and the fact that most people were watching this game to see Bears rookie QB Justin Fields, Tua Tagovailoa entered Saturday’s game with growing expectations after an up-and-down rookie season.

Tagovailoa made some nice plays, but also made a bad decision that he’ll need to forget about moving into Week 2 of the preseason.

Stats

8-of-11, 99 yards, 1 interception

Analysis

While Miami sat some notable starters on both sides of the ball, the Bears stuck with most of their starters. That provided a Chicago defense that looked like it was there to make some plays and not just go through the motions. Although Tagovailoa was missing some key pass catchers, it still provided for a better test than he might otherwise have seen.

Tagovailoa went three-and-out on his opening series. He targeted Adam Shaheen on second down but the pass was broken up on a great defensive play.

On the second series, he found Shaheen for a short gain and then put some great touch on a deep pass to Mike Gesicki who broke a tackle to turn it into a 50-yard gain. A quick slant to Mack Hollins on 1st and goal set the Bears up inside the 2-yard line, but they had to settle for a field goal.

The third series started well with Tagovailoa turning a drive-opening 1st and 20 after a holding call into a steady progression down the field. He completed passes to Durham Smythe, Mike Gesicki, Mack Hollins, Malcolm Brown, and Myles Gaskin that coupled with 25 rushing yards from his running backs set the Bears up with 1st and 10 at the Bears 14. Then, Tagovailoa pissed it all away with a bad decision. He threw a pass into the end zone intended for Adam Shaheen, only to have two defenders converge and DeAndre Houston-Carson pick off the ball.

Prior to the interception, Tagovailoa looked impressive. It’s only one game, but there will be concern about inconsistencies heading into the regular season.

It’s worth noting the Dolphins QB never attempted to scramble, but did show off impressive footwork in the pocket to evade a stout Bears pass rush. On that second and goal situation in the second offensive series, I suspect in the regular season we would have seen Tagovailoa attempt to score the touchdown himself.

Fantasy implications

Tagovailoa is going to be the Dolphins starter, but his fantasy value is limited if he does not get more ground yards. He’s a mobile quarterback but has never been one to scramble for yards regularly. In 32 games at Alabama, he rushed 107 times for 340 yards and nine touchdowns. It’s not nothing, but it’s not enough to give fantasy managers confidence they’ll get enough rushing this season to overcome the turnovers that seem inevitable.