Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens examines Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s performance against the Arizona Cardinals and comes away impressed with the rookie’s first extended time on the field throwing the ball.
It takes a few years for us to see whether a young NFL quarterback has the goods to stick in the league as a productive starter. It’s a statement you can’t “but what about…?” around, even if you think you knew Patrick Mahomes was special before he even set foot on an NFL field.
And as someone who nailed Mahomes, if I know this truth to be evident, then you’re going to have a tough time convincing me otherwise when it comes to the number of games quarterbacks need for us to truly determine if they are good enough. There is no exact number needed as much as we need to give the NFL time to follow its course of action.
Teams usually spend 4-6 weeks collecting film and data on a new player, and it’s around weeks 5-7 where we begin to see opponents gameplan against tendencies they’re seeing with that player. At this point, the player either proves in a resounding fashion that he can do the things opponents think he can’t or he can’t.
If he can’t, the next step is figuring out whether the player can learn fast enough to address these flaws and if the opponents’ gameplans are banking on a conceptual, technical, or physical flaw. In some cases, the flaw is overcome within a matter of weeks. This is uncommon.
Usually, it takes the rest of the year and an offseason. Frequently, it takes another season of games to fully grasp what defenses will throw at them because NFL gameplans are also based on what the defense can and cannot do with its personnel.
The Miami Dolphins is blitzing heavily because it is confident in its secondary’s ability to cover. The Seattle Seahawks don’t like to blitz. Last week, the Bills forced Seattle into doing so. Although the Seahawks recorded eight sacks, Josh Allen earned 400 yards and 4 touchdowns
It may take a dozen games for quarterbacks to see opponents exhaust the varieties of gameplans and personnel types they can use as an attempt to exploit the quarterback’s flaws. And there may be another cycle during the second and third seasons where coaches discover additional flaws as more film and data are collected, and that enhanced information leads to a sharper gameplan.
This is why Carson Wentz and Jared Goff can be Pro Bowl performers in their second year and struggle afterward. Or, Baker Mayfield looks promising to most during his rookie year and the bottom falls out the next. And it’s not always the player. The offense and coaching staff may be reacting to the adjustment of opponents slower than the player is capable.
This might be the case with Lamar Jackson, we’ll know more by this time next year.
So with this in mind, the most knowledgeable take you can have as a football fan when it comes to rookie quarterbacks is that we really don’t know. Still, you can enjoy the first impressions and realize that these impressions also will put opponents on notice when it comes to their future gameplans as they accumulate 4-6 weeks of tape.
When this is applied to Tagovailoa, they’re going to appreciate his pocket management, massive confidence in his arm and accuracy, and a budding skill for manipulating and creating. While I believe Tagovailoa walked the tightrope with a couple of plays below, he succeeded and it’s that kind of daring backed up with skills that creates a successful playmaker at the quarterback position.
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